|Alan Held as Wozzeck; (c) Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera|
Mark Lamos' 1997 production was stark; blank backdrops reinforced Berg's vision of Wozzeck as mythical, and lighting and stage direction also contributed to the oppressively ominous mood. The charcoal blues and grays are relieved only by the scarlet piping on the soldiers' uniforms... a color which is echoed by a strip on the horizon as Andres and Wozzeck cut reeds, and of course by the terrible Mondscheibe. The thoughtful choreography resulted in some stunningly chilling moments: for instance, Wozzeck keeps getting sharp objects--the razor, the sickle--taken away from him. The claustrophobia of the tavern scene, too, was intense. The chorus was excellent, and terrifying. Indeed, I didn't think there was a weak link in the cast.
Protean house stalwart Wendy White was a sharp, if not quite shrewish Margret; Russell Thomas was a finely-sung Andres more abgestumpft than dim, not unsympathetic. The Drum Major, it seems to me, does not need gorgeous sound, but this Stuart Skelton certainly had, in addition to vocal power and plenty of swagger. He was almost seductive with Marie, unequivocally brutal with Wozzeck. Disappointingly, I had trouble hearing Gerhard Siegel's Hauptmann, but I know from hearing him in other things that it can't be the size of his voice that's the issue (obviously not his German diction, either.) He was convincingly venomous and fussy. Walter Fink's warm, full bass seemed luxurious for the Doctor; he was most sonorously complacent.
|Meier and Held; (c) Cory Weaver/Metropolitan Opera|
Waltraud Meier gave me chills. Praising--even marveling over--her portrayal seems almost redundant, because we are talking about Waltraud Meier. But: her Marie is damaged and tender and cynical and sensual and brimming with a defiance that, in the face of so much hopelessness, looks almost like hope. And how she captured the desire for desire in "Heiland! Ich möchte Dir die Füsse salben!" I have no idea, but I will argue that she did. I thought she sang beautifully and incisively throughout, but I will admit to the weakness, if it be a weakness, of being simply, viscerally thrilled by her distinctive high notes. This was my first time hearing Alan Held live, and I was deeply impressed. His singing was plangent in both senses of the word, full and expressive and unflagging, and his Wozzeck--tormented and groping desperately for meaning in his world--was deeply moving. The nuances of his anguish, and his anger, were remarkable. The conclusion seemed inevitable, and yet it had me on the edge of my seat. I may wait in vain for the day when the last chord of an opera dies into complete, reverent stillness at the Met, but every bit of the fervor with which the audience--and orchestra!--applauded the singers was more than deserved. Maestro Levine took his bow from the pit, to the affectionate acclamation of all. I know this post tends towards the incoherently rapturous, but even after having slept on it (with dreams of a blood-red moon,) I really do think the performance was extraordinarily good, implying the omitted line from Büchner's play: "Teufel! Meint ihr, ich hätt' jemand umgebracht? Bin ich ein Mörder? Was gafft ihr? Guckt euch selbst an!"