Magazine article Opera Canada

Wozzeck: Bayerische Staatsoper (Munich)

Magazine article Opera Canada

Wozzeck: Bayerische Staatsoper (Munich)

Article excerpt

Generalmusikdirektor of the Bayerische Staatsoper since 2006, Kent Nagano, better known in Canada as Music Director of I'Orchestre symphonique de Montreal, was not in fact in the pit for the company's scandal-packed and urine-soaked season-opening production of Verdi's Macbeth. He was musically in charge of a new production of Berg's Wozzeck, however, which earned the grudging admiration even of Munich audiences exasperated by the Regie-theater extremes of recent productions.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Not that this staging by Austrian theatre director Andreas Kriegenburg was altogether orthodox. The setting was more or less the 19th-century Austrian garrison town of the Georg Buchner play on which the opera is based. But as the curtain rose on Nov. 16, Wozzeck, the firm-voiced baritone Michael Voile, was shaving the captain's skull, not his face, and was rewarded with a quick shave himself.

This captain, played with ghastly vehemence by veteran heldentenor Wolfgang Schmidt, was a sight to behold, grotesquely overweight in suspenders and sporting fat-man falsies. Bass Clive Bayley as the doctor, also a skinhead, was scarcely less monstrous. His experiment on Wozzeck did not involve eating beans, but collecting urine from a catheter. The good doctor did not scruple to dip his finger in the bucket and taste a sample.

You could add to these distinctive visuals a mute chorus of men in dark suits, possibly representing the proletariat, and a stage that is flooded throughout with a thin pool of water, presumably representing the watery grave to which the impoverished solider eventually consigns himself. …

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