Wozzeck (Tour - Oxford)
Sadly both Christopher Purves (Wozzeck) and Sian Meinir (Margret) were unable to perform and their roles were taken by Alexander Ashworth and Helen Greenaway respectively. After a slightly tentative start Ashworth grew into the title role well and gave us a most memorable murder scene at the end. Perhaps he lacked the physical presence that Purves brings to the role but was vocally well in control. Greenway was excellent as the slightly raddled cabaret singer Margret. Graham Clark and Clive Bayley as the Captain and Doctor seemed to have strayed from the set of a Carry On film and thus gavet their characters a comic aspect that only heightened their brutality and contempt for poor mad Wozzeck. Clark’s vocal range was tested to the limit but he sang superbly Hubert Francis, dressed in an absurd golfing outfit, performed well as the Drum Major, Marie’s lover. But the star of the opera was undoubtedly Wioletta Chodowicz who brought out Marie’s different character traits (fickleness, materialism, compassion and even religious thoughtfulness) through singing of wonderful depth and vocal strength. Perhaps the finest musicianship of the evening was that of the orchestra under the baton of Lothar Koenigs. The underlying complex musical structure of the work was laid out with consummate understanding and we were treated to ensemble playing that was tight and well characterised with truly excellent individual solos (praise especially for the bassoon and the viola). Despite the orchestra’s size the balance between stage and pit was well judged and, were you a German speaker, you would have had no need of the surtitles.
This then was a performance that despite taking liberties with staging and setting remained faithful to Berg’s vision and delivered a compelling telling of this strange, fragmentary, unsettling masterpiece.
- Peter McMullin