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Berg's Wozzeck

Simon Keenlyside as Wozzeck. Photo: ©R. Walz/ Opera national de Paris

Simon Keenlyside as Wozzeck. Photo: ©R. Walz/ Opera national de Paris

Opera Bastille

Saturday 12 July 2008 18:30-20:35 (Radio 3)

A new production from the Opera Bastille in Paris of Berg's dark and disturbing modernist opera, directed by Christoph Marthaler and conducted by Sylvain Cambreling, a noted interpreter of 20th-century scores. Baritone Simon Keenlyside sings the title role for the first time, with leading German soprano Angela Denoke as Wozzeck's common-law wife Marie.

Wozzeck, an impoverished soldier stationed in Germany, agrees to undergo medical experimentation in order to gain some extra money for his family. As his mind begins to disintegrate, he experiences dark visions and paranoia until, when confronting his wife about an 'infidelity', he wreaks brutal revenge.

Presented by Andrew McGregor.

Duration:

2 hours 5 minutes

CAST & SYNOPSIS

Wozzeck ...... Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
Marie ...... Angela Denoke (soprano)
Captain ...... Gerhard Siegel (tenor)
Doctor ...... Roland Bracht (bass)
Drum Major ...... Jon Villars (tenor)
Andres ...... David Keubler (tenor)
Margret ...... Ursula Hesse von den Steinen (mezzo-soprano)
First Apprentice ...... Patrick Schramm (bass)
Second Apprentice ...... Igor Gnidii (baritone)
Madman ...... John Graham-Hall (tenor)

Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera National de Paris
Maitrise des hauts de Seine/Choeur d'enfants de l'Opera national de Paris
Sylvain Cambreling (conductor)


Synopsis
First act

Scene I - The Captain is being shaved by Wozzeck. He philosophises about eternity, the passage of time and his melancholy, whilst mocking Wozzeck's simple-mindedness, and reproaching him for having a son born out of wedlock and for lacking a sense of right and wrong. Wozzeck recognises that he is not very self-disciplined and that he is too poor to have a sense of right and wrong. The Captain says that Wozzeck is a good fellow, but that he thinks too much.
Scene II - Andres, a friend of Wozzeck, tries to entertain him with a song, but Wozzeck is immersed in obscure hallucinations.
Scene III - Marie watches a military parade pass by and cannot take her eyes off a drum-major. Her neighbour Margret watches with amusement. Marie finds herself alone with her child - Wozzeck's son. She sings him a lullaby. Wozzeck arrives. Marie tries to make him take an interest in the child but he is still captivated by his unwholesome visions and appears not to notice his son. He talks in riddles, quotes the Bible and soon leaves.
Scene IV - Wozzeck earns a little money by submitting himself to the Doctor's experiments. The latter prescribes Wozzeck a strange diet and predicts that he will lose his mind if he continues to surrender to his obsessions. At the same time, though, he pays Wozzeck to keep following his obsessions since his case is interesting from a medical point of view.

Second act
Scene I - Marie gazes at the earrings that the drum-major has given her. She tells Wozzeck that she has found them. An incredulous Wozzeck hands her his pay and goes out again, leaving her alone with her remorse.
Scene II - The Captain and the Doctor meet. The Doctor comments on the Captain's complexion that reveals his hypertension, and predicts serious health problems for him. Wozzeck arrives and tells them of his doubts about Marie's fidelity. The Doctor takes his pulse to see if his blood pressure changes when he gets agitated.
Scene III - Wozzeck and Marie meet. In veiled terms, he tells her that he can see no sin in her face. Marie refuses to let him touch her: "Sooner a knife in my body than your hand on me". Wozzeck seems possessed by the notion that Marie has been unfaithful.
Scene IV - The drum-major dances with Marie in front of Wozzeck. A song strikes up. A drunkard delivers a strange sermon. A madman approaches Wozzeck and tells him that he can smell blood.
Scene V - Haunted by the image of Marie dancing in the arms of the drum-Major, Wozzeck is unable to sleep. He decides to confide in Anders. The drum-major appears, boasts of his conquest and provokes Wozzeck.

Third act
Scene I - Marie reads the story of Mary Magdalene in the Bible. She interrupts her reading to tell her son a story and then begs for God's mercy.
Scene II - Wozzeck holds Marie back to talk about the time they have spent together. He thinks he can see a red moon rising. The vision makes him think of blood and he kills her.
Scene III - Wozzeck talks to Margret and asks her to sing him a song, but she notices bloodstains on his hand and arm. Her cries alert the neighbourhood. People arrive and begin to ask questions. Wozzeck offers vague explanations and finally flees.
Scene IV - Wozzeck returns to the spot where he murdered Marie. He hopes to find the weapon that could betray him. He retrieves it and throws it further away. Suddenly, seeing blood everywhere, he is seized by a desire to wash it away. The Captain and the Doctor hear moans. Rather than find themselves in a disagreeable situation, they prefer to move away.
Scene V - Children are playing. They shout to Marie's son that his mother is dead. The little boy does not react. He sings a song and continues playing.

CAST

Wozzeck ...... Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
Marie ...... Angela Denoke (soprano)
Captain ...... Gerhard Siegel (tenor)
Doctor ...... Roland Bracht (bass)
Drum Major ...... Jon Villars (tenor)
Andres ...... David Keubler (tenor)
Margret ...... Ursula Hesse von den Steinen (mezzo-soprano)
First Apprentice ...... Patrick Schramm (bass)
Second Apprentice ...... Igor Gnidii (baritone)
Madman ...... John Graham-Hall (tenor)

Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera National de Paris
Maitrise des hauts de Seine/Choeur d'enfants de l'Opera national de Paris
Sylvain Cambreling (conductor)




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