Sunday, April 17, 2011

NOT 'the Barber of Seville'

as I overheard on leaving the gruelling, gruelling performance of Wozzeck, by Alban Berg, at the Met yesterday afternoon. No, Ma'am, it certainly was not.

To be honest, I would not have gone if someone had not forced a ticket on me. And I am very very grateful to him!!! It's an amazing piece, quite a psychodrama. It's short (was performed without an interval, or 'innermission' as Americans call it. Apparently yesterday's performance was broadcast in Europe, and probably elsewhere, so a friend of mine in the UK caught it, too.

The production was fairly star studded, with Waltraud Meier (a big [not physically] Wagnerian) as Marie (why are women in such dramas always called 'Marie'?), and Alan Held as Wozzeck. Amazing was also Gerhard Siegel as the Captain, who constantly asks for people to live life slowly, and Walter Fink as the doctor, who sees patients mainly as cases, and was desperate to become immortal through some medical discovery. The music, which is very much into sound painting (Klangmalerei) seems to be extremely demanding of singers - I realise why this cannot be performed everywhere (say, Vilnius, hush my mouth). The way the music reflects the emotions is truly awesome! Like Wagnerian operas, this one does not do arias, but is more of a rapidly changing conversation. With fairly rapidly changing sets, which were simple, but ingenious.

Although this opera is gruelling, especially at the end, and involves a murder, it did contain some funny moments, such as the vain doctor, and the captain with his own philosophy of life.

James Levine, who has not been well recently, was conducting. Apparently he is really attached to this opera, understandably. (I must say that the subtitles, in German and English) really helped the understanding of it, though the singers' diction was also fairly clear (quite a few seemed to be German.... He was cheered onto the stage, or rather into the pit, but was unable to join the performers on the stage. But these New Yorkers annoy me, at the end of concerts. Many stand up, but it's only to rush to the exit. Meanwhile, those of us who want to keep applauding, cannot see anything, so are forced into a standing ovation (which was deserved here). Some prat behind me started applauding as soon as the last tone expired - but really this opera needs a bit of contemplation before the applause.

It's an opera I would definitely go to see again, though it has just finished its run for this season.