From April 24th until May 15th Christoph Marthaler’s production of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck, conducted by Michael Schønwandt, is being revived. At its opening in 2008, the production was unanimously hailed by the critics as a masterpiece. Press Review.
Desperately funny… When describing the productions of Swiss director, Christoph Marthaler, oxymorons of this kind spring naturally to mind, such is his mastery of the art of combining scathing irony and subversion, whilst preserving an extreme musical and theatrical sensitivity.
“Christoph Marthaler, who enjoys huge popularity among both opera and theatre goers, creates atypical productions, real gems of humour and relevance.”
Fabienne Arvers and Patrick Sourd, Les Inrockuptibles
Before Wozzeck, Paris Opera audiences saw a stunning Katia Kabanova in which the eponymous heroine disappeared during the finale by curling up at the bottom of a pond in the courtyard of a block of flats; a Figaro who celebrated his wedding at a Town Hall Registry Office where marriages are recorded one after the other as if on an assembly line; and a Traviata, à la Edith Piaf, the heroine persecuted by bourgeois hangers-on riddled with nervous ticks. His Wozzeck seals his encounter with the intensely dramatic music of Alban Berg.
“Perfect harmony between Marthaler’s art and the acerbic Wozzeck. On Saturday evening, the Paris Opera presented its new production of Wozzeck by Alban Berg, a drama of jealousy and social frustration in which the disenchanted and eccentric poetry of Swiss director Christophe Marthaler is marvellously effective.”
Marthaler’s theatre is above all musical: he began his career as a musician before turning to performance and “happenings”. Music is always present in his work, even in his theatrical productions. In Wozzeck, it weaves intimate links with the staging.
“Everything he does, in terms of theatre, seems to spring from the most intimate depths of the music. It lies in minute details, fine touches, seemingly incongruous but always justified by the musical intention or textual details.”
Renaud Machart, Le Monde, 31/3/08
Doubtless, the libretto adapted by Alban Berg from Büchner’s drama is one of the most accomplished in the entire operatic repertoire. The production does it full justice with its streamlined direction of actors, drawing inspiration from the creativity of the performers themselves. In rehearsal, Simon Keenlyside, who sang the title role made the following comment:
“His intelligence is fascinating. He follows the line but trusts the singer: he enjoys seeing what the performer is capable of inventing, and instinctively knows what to eliminate or keep in the propositions I make.”
Quoted in Le Figaro, 3/4/08
If the mark of a great production is to change the way we see the work, then the unanimous view is that this is one of them.
“An operatic production is memorable when, in addition to its beauty, it allows us to see and hear the opera differently. This is the case here.”Opera Magazine May 2008