Above: baritone Matthias Goerne
Friday February 28th, 2014 - Earlier in the week came the disappointing announcement that Maestro Daniele Gatti would be unable to conduct tonight's concert performance of Alban Berg's WOZZECK by the visiting Vienna State Opera at Carnegie Hall. Gatti was the main reason we had decided to attend this concert; in the event Franz Welser-Möst was on the podium tonight: musically the performance attained a high level but left us wondering how it might have differed from a Gatti WOZZECK.
WOZZECK is a rather odd choice for a 'concert' presentation, since so much of its power lies in the inter-action of the characters. Last season the Philharmonia presented it at Avery Fisher Hall in a semi-staged version conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen; it was as vivid as any performance I have ever seen of the Berg masterpiece in the opera house. Tonight at Carnegie, the singers were ranged on high platforms on both sides of the stage with the wide gulf of the orchestra in between. The singers were tethered to their scores (though relying on them to varying degrees) and rarely communicated with one another.
Ticket prices were high and there were quite a few empty seats in the upper reaches of the Hall. The curious thing was that a number of people left during the performance - starting about ten minutes into the opera. Had they just randomly chosen this event, not knowing what a thorny delight WOZZECK is?
The orchestra played superbly and Maestro Welser-Möst shaped the score impressively, though the savage depths of the human soul which Berg so brutally depicted in the music were not always reached. The musical performance attained its apogee in the long interlude that precedes the shattering final scene of the opera. Super-titles projected over-head revealed the black humour that permeates the work.
Matthias Goerne's voice has become very dark and he has both the power and subtlety to create the character convincingly even in a concert setting. He gave a striking performance vocally, aligning our sympathies to this down-trodden man who suffers endless indignities before finally breaking, a man manipulated by everyone who plays a part in his miserable life.
The soprano Evelyn Herlitzius seemed to have quite a few fans in the audience. She gave an exciting and vivid reading of Marie's music though she seemed at times to be forcing her voice; I guess that goes with the territory.
The others in the cast, listed below, gave characterful singing. Two performances that stood out were Norbert Ernst's Andreas and Peter Jelosits' Madman, the latter a brief but very exposed musical moment. The children from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus did very well in the opera's tragic final scene.
- Vienna State Opera
- Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, Conductor
- Matthias Goerne, Baritone (Wozzeck)
- Evelyn Herlitzius, Soprano (Marie)
- Monika Bohinec, Mezzo-Soprano (Margret)
- Herbert Lippert, Tenor (Drum Major)
- Norbert Ernst, Tenor (Andres)
- Wolfgang Bankl, Bass (Doctor)
- Herwig Pecoraro, Tenor (Captain)
- Andreas Hörl, Bass (First Apprentice)
- Clemens Unterreiner, Baritone (Second Apprentice)
- Peter Jelosits, Tenor (Madman)
- Franz Gruber, Tenor (Soldier)
- Vienna State Opera Chorus
Thomas Lang, Chorus Director
- Members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Dianne Berkun-Menaker, Artistic Director