2012-11-19, New York, Avery Fisher Hall, Wozzeck
Composer : Alban Berg
Librettist : The composer after the drama Woyzeck by Georg Büchner
Venue and Dates : Avery Fisher Hall 19.11.2012
Conductor : Esa-Pekka Salonen
Wozzeck : Simon Keenlyside
Drum Major : Hubert Francis
Andres : Joshua Ellicott
Captain : Peter Hoare
Doctor : Frode Olsen
Marie : Angela Denoke
Margret : Anna Burford
First Apprentice: Henry Waddington
Second Apprentice: Adrian Clarke
Idiot : Harry Nicoll
” … As Wozzeck, Simon Keenlyside enjoyed a great personal triumph. Hurling himself into the drama with a dazzling affiinity for the expressive physical manifestations of madness and with tortured facial responses to Wozzeck’s downward spiral, the baritone sang with unfettered power and a full palette of vocal colours which he drew upon to project the character’s ravaged humanity. Keenlyside’s performance was nothing short of perfection. …”
” … Keenlyside brought his special brand of musical and dramatic intelligence to the title character. He masterfully navigated the variety of Berg’s score. From his nervous gestures even before uttering his first monotonic “Jawohl, Herr Hauptmann!”, Keenlyside’s Wozzeck was clearly a defeated man, providing services for the Captain and serving as a guinea pig for the Doctor’s absurd medical experiments – to supplement his army pay in order to support Marie and their child. From the very beginning and the hallucinations that prompt Andres’s cry “He, bist Du toll?” (Are you mad?), Keenlyside drew a vivid portrait of Wozzeck’s descent into madness, culminating with his fatal stabbing of Marie, his compulsive search for the murder weapon and his drowning – witnessed by the impassive Captain and Doctor. …”
” … The performance of Berg’s “Wozzeck” at Avery Fisher Hall on Monday night was called an opera in concert. But the impressive cast, headed by the baritone Simon Keenlyside in the title role, and the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, who drew an intense, harrowing and, finally, deeply poignant performance of this landmark work from the Philharmonia Orchestra, were not about to let the confines of the concert format inhibit them. …
Wozzeck, an impoverished soldier living in a garrison town with his common-law wife and illegitimate son, is becoming a signature role for Mr. Keenlyside, who was fresh from his triumph as Prospero in Thomas Adès’s opera “The Tempest” at the Met.
One of the most charismatic actors in opera, Mr. Keenlyside was a haunted Wozzeck in a daringly modern production at the Paris National Opera in 2008. If Monday night’s performance had the feel of a lived-in staging, that was probably because Mr. Keenlyside, along with several members of this cast, had taken part in a semi-staged presentation, with costumes and videos, that Mr. Salonen conducted with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 2009.
Mr. Keenlyside’s essentially lyric baritone voice may be a little light for the music. At times on Monday, during anguished outbursts, he sounded as if he were pushing his sound. But he brought intense expressivity to every line and captured the tormented character’s volatile mood swings.
From the moment he appeared in the opening scene, when Wozzeck shaves the Captain for whom he performs menial tasks, Mr. Keenlyside embodied the character. Obviously, in this concert performance he did not actually shave the Captain (the tenor Peter Hoare). But he brushed off the Captain’s jacket and straightened his hair, sometimes tottering on his feet as he nervously used one leg to scratch an itch on the other.
As the moralizing Captain, Mr. Hoare lectured Wozzeck for living in an unwed state with Marie, and delivered lines in a haughty, bright tenor. Mr. Keenlyside just took it, looking the essence of a beaten-down man. … ”
” … Mr. Keenlyside, fresh from his run as Prospero in the Met’s new production of The Tempest lay down his staff for Wozzeck’s knife, inhabiting the soldier’s madness for a harrowing three acts. Indeed, his Wozzeck seems unbalanced from the first few moments, jittering and twitching in the fields with Andreas, and barely interacting wih Marie and their child, here played by empty air.
As the drama progressed, the British baritone became more disheveled. Moving between spoken word, sprechstimme and (occasional) singing, he sank quickly into full-on dementia, huddling on Mr. Salonen’s podium as if conductor and orchestra were among his persecutors. His final murder of Marie had apocalyptic power, backed by the full strength of the Philharmonia forces.
This performance reunited Mr. Keenlyside with his old Parisian partner, Angela Denoke, as Marie, the mother of Wozzeck’s child. The two singers played off their long experience of portraying this unhappy couple, their scenes moving swiftly towards her murder in the last act. The only limitation of the small stage was a lack of a young Wozzeck for the domestic scenes. The choral singer portraying their child did not actually appear until the last scene of the opera. …”
” … These singers acted with such conviction that the 90-minute, three-act performance was riveting from start to finish. Keenlyside, who completed a run Saturday as Prospero in Thomas Ades’ “The Tempest” at the Metropolitan Opera, commanded the stage. Among those in the seats participating in the huge ovation at the end were baritone Thomas Hampson and mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung. …
With dark red suspenders, his shoulders slightly hunched, Keenlyside resembled Len Cariou’s Sweeney Todd. His voice, inflection and movement combined to create an indelible portrayal, his mannerisms becoming increasingly agitated as the taunting from the blustery Captain (tenor Peter Hoare) and nasty Doctor (bass Tijl Faveyts) took its toll. By the time he saw Marie dancing with Drum Major (tenor Hubert Francis), Wozzeck’s rage seemed to be a natural byproduct.
Instead of stabbing Marie to death, he hugged the life out of her — and Denoke walked offstage as if a ghost. … “
” … In the performance of Simon Keenlyside in the title role, the anxiety and anguish present throughout the opera seemed to find their distillation. … Simon Keenlyside’s Wozzeck was so haunted that watching his anguished disintegration was painful. Trying to hold together the fragments of a self constantly reproached and denied by those around him, Keenlyside’s Wozzeck seemed from the beginning heartwrenchingly alone. His mental torment (present and past) was realized in physical tics which intensified over the course of the evening, and from which he rarely enjoyed freedom, as he gazed at and murmured against an unresponsive heaven, often scrubbing a hand over his face as if a vision of a less brutal world were only a film of dust away. Keenlyside’s apparent fearlessness extended to his vocal as well as his dramatic performance. His use of text and tone was admirable, and in many of the awkwardly shaped lines he revealed an underlying sweetness, and his scenes with Denoke were marked by real tenderness. In vulnerability and fear and rage, however, he roared and cried as well as sang, until driven to the near-inarticulate shrieks of “Weh! weh!” … “
” … Simon Keenlyside, in particular, was a total triumph in this regard, his Wozzeck deranged from the start and yet embracing his destiny as time went on. … Keenlyside revelled in the expressive possibilities given to him by Berg’s music, and, good as he was in Thomas Adès’s The Tempest, he was in another league here. I still fear that his voice is fraying somewhat, for much of his Wozzeck was delivered in a kind of Sprechstimme hybrid, but the intensity of performance was much improved from an already high level three years ago. … “
” … The cast was dominated by Simon Keenlyside, who focused Wozzeck’s agonies, physical, mental and vocal, with poignant desperation (he succeeded the excellent Johan Reuter, the baritone protagonist in California performances). … “
” … Simon Keenlyside sang the title role, applying the gifts that make him such a wonderful singer of lieder. The British baritone’s physical demeanor may have been a shade overemphatic: his Wozzeck had the mien of a near-catatonic simpleton. But he clearly wanted to establish a dichotomy between the soldier’s dull-witted affect and the rich inner life that he revealed with every note he sang. He made Wozzeck’s music sound like an outgrowth of German Romanticism. By singing the role with the soulfulness he brings to Schumann and Brahms, Keenlyside revealed the passionate nature that drives Wozzeck to his unhappy fate. …”