2013-11, Royal Opera House London, Wozzeck


Composer : Alban Berg
Librettist : The composer after the drama Woyzeck by Georg Büchner
Venue and Dates : Royal Opera House, London
31 October, 5, 8, 12, 15 November 2013
Conductor : Mark Elder
Director : Keith Warner
Costumes :
Lighting :
Performers :

Wozzeck : Simon Keenlyside
Marie: Karita Mattila
Captain – Gerhard Siegel
Doctor – John Tomlinson
Drum Major – Endrik Wottrich

 Photo gallery




ROH website: Your reaction: Wozzeck

 Blog of Intermezzo with a lot of photos – stage and curtain call



Kimon Daltas, the arts desk.com, 1.11.2013

“You could hardly ask for a better cast than the one assembled for this short run of Wozzeck at the Royal Opera House: Simon Keenlyside in the title role, Karita Mattila, John Tomlinson, Mark Elder in the pit. And at a top price of £65, with many tickets going for much less, this is quite the bargain – not least because the marquee names absolutely nail the performance.

Keenlyside jitters and stiffens as Wozzeck gets progressively consumed by imagined and real-life torments, while harnessing the strange lyricism of his vocal lines. …”

Stephen Jay-Taylor, Opera Britannia, 1.11.2013

4 stars

” … Here, and with all due deference to Simon Keenlyside’s scrupulous, almost agonisingly inarticulate Wozzeck, is the difference that an all-in, no-holds-barred performer can make, single-handedly lifting an already impressive account on to a higher level of achievement.  …”

 George Hall, The Stage, 1.11.2013

“… In the title role of the brutalised and endlessly humiliated common soldier who ends up killing his partner through sexual jealousy, Simon Keenlyside is musically all present and correct, but there’s a sense in which Wozzeck’s sheer ordinariness eludes him. …”

Mark Ronan, markronan.com, 1.11.2013

” …and Simon Keenlyside gave the most beautifully nuanced performance of Wozzeck it is possible to imagine. You will not find a better cast, nor better conducting than Mark Elder delivered in bringing out the agony, intensity and extraordinary beauty of this 100-minute opera. …”

Mark Valentia, Whatsonstage.con, 1.11.2013

4 stars

” … Simon Keenlyside, who has not played Berg’s disturbed soldier in a fully-staged UK production before, is hardly a revelation – his gifts are too well known for that – but his voice is in prime condition and the concentration with which he inhabits the man is startling. A more sensitive staging than Warner’s, though, would allow him to chart his descent into madness rather than placing him in hell from the very start. An asylum setting is all very well – and there’s a nice ambiguity as to whether the white-tile set is a hospital or a laboratory – but with his insanity fixed from the outset Keenlyside’s Wozzeck has nowhere to go. …”

 Roger Smith, Bachtrack.com, 1.11.2013

5 stars

” … The proto-Grimes outsider-philosopher Wozzeck is taken by the absurdly versatile Simon Keenlyside (can he really have made his Royal Opera debut in 1989?) He plays Wozzeck as a shuffling simpleton, dressed by Marie-Jeanne Lecca in something like a greyer version of Chinese Communist Party garb, and rises impressively to the vocal and dramatic challenges of this most expressionist of roles. As his and Marie’s son, Sebastian Wright maintains admirable poise despite seeing horrors someone his age should never see, and I don’t just mean the Royal Opera’s backstage facilities. …”

Claire Seymour, Opera Today.com, 1.11.2013

” … Baritone Simon Keenlyside is an experienced veteran in the title role – this year alone he has already performed the part in Vienna, Madrid and Munich – but in some ways he might be thought too physically suave and composed to convince as the mentally ravaged soldier. But, Keenlyside showed us the psychological rawness while maintaining the essence of Wozzeck’s humanity, the beauty of the vocal lines drawing us into his confusion, the variations of colour and nuance revealing the depth of that bewilderment. The lightness of his baritone contrasted effectively with the Doctor’s deep bass, emphasising further Wozzeck’s defencelessness; progressively dehumanised, rendered ever more inarticulate, Keenlyside evoked a powerful sense of Grimes-like alienation from those around him. His interactions with his child, played with acuity by Sebastian Wright, were painfully poignant.

Keenlyside’s voice is essentially lyrical and herein lies a small misgiving though, for the eloquence of the vocal lines was sometimes at odds with the primitive brutality of the experience. The baritone, in common with virtually all the cast, doesn’t make much of the Sprechstimme but some vocal ‘roughness’ is needed to project the tragedy of this “psychotic anti-hero” (Derek Jarman). The contrast of lyrical and half-spoken utterance can be deeply expressive, as in the drowning scene in Act 3 when, as he desperately searches for the murder weapon, Wozzeck’s Sprechstimme ‘All is still and dead’ contrasts with his ferocious shouts of ‘Murder’. ‘Who cried?’ he wonders, then realises that it was he himself who spoke; the different vocal idioms reveal a destructive fragmentation of both body and psyche, one which is made more poignant when Wozzeck then sings tenderly over Marie’s dead body: ‘Marie! What is that crimson necklace you’re wearing? Was that well-earned, or sinful, just like the earrings?’ Has he really forgotten what he has done? …”

Curtis Rodgers, Clsasicalsource.com, 1.11.2013

” … On first-night, Simon Keenlyside’s Wozzeck was reserved from the beginning, already alienated from everything and everyone around him. As his actions and motivations were inscrutable, his murder of Marie seemed all the more shocking and unexpected, given that he appeared already to have borne a great deal passively and indifferently. His singing conveyed exactly that internalised, impersonal sorrow, rather than outward hysteria and anger.  …”

Operatraveller, 1.11.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside’s Wozzeck is a man teetering on the edge of madness from the very beginning. Someone incapable of understanding the world around him with this lack of understanding finally manifesting itself in horrific physical violence. Vocally he was outstanding – the voice richer than I’ve heard it for a while and easy throughout the range. His diction was exceptional – every word crystal-clear and the same could be said for the rest of the cast, I completely forgot about the surtitles after a while and was completely drawn in to the performance. …”

Richard Morrison, The Times, Saturday 02 November 2013

4 stars

“On stage too, the performers are riveting. In the title role, Simon Keenlyside is no jibbering idiot but the remains of an ordinary guy whose sanity and dignity has been shattered.”

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, Sunday 03.11.13

4 stars

” … The cast, however, was stunning, led by Simon Keenlyside as Wozzeck and Karita Mattila singing her first Marie, he innocent, dogged but fervent, she blowsy, longing for forgiveness yet hopeless. …”

Michael Church, The Independent, 3.11.2013
4 stars

” … As played by Simon Keenlyside, this Wozzeck is a lost soul from the start, leaning forward on tiptoe as he tries to make sense of his treatment by Gerhard Siegel’s complacently contemptuous Captain, humbly admitting that poor folk like himself cannot afford to be ‘virtuous’.  … At the still centre of everything is Keenlyside’s Wozzeck, commanding in his fury and despair, and bringing off a final coup de theatre which demands extraordinary nerve and physical control.”

Barry Millington, Evening Standard, 3.11.2013

5 stars

” … Simon Keenlyside in the title role, with glazed eyes and expressively modulated tone, presents a compelling portrait of a dehumanised, indeed lobotomised victim. …”

Rosenna East, The Big Issue, 3.11.2013

4 stars

” … Simon Keenlyside’s very convincing Wozzeck paces uneasily within his cage, like a zoo animal that one both pities and fears.  … Keenlyside, at the centre of it all, remains disturbingly good.”

(FT does not even allow to copy parts of the articles)

” … Simon Keenlyside has honed his interpretation of Berg’s hapless soldier over a number of years, offering a shellshocked man, haunted by a paranoia, which Keith Warner’s still-superb production viciously projects across Stefanos Laziridis’s laboratory set. The Lieder-like quality of Keenlyside’s voice has naturally coarsened over time, though he can still bring rapt beauty to Berg’s lyrical lines and, as ever, he proves a brave stage animal …”
Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 10.11.13
“… Keenlyside is an older Wozzeck than we have become used to in Warner’s production, but the top of his baritone is in fine fettle, warmer and more lyrical in the anti-hero’s few opportunities for vocal expansiveness than most interpreters of this part. …”
“Simon Keenlyside no sabe nadar, por lo menos cuando interpreta a Wozzeck. … Tan bien montado está el truco de la pecera que no sabemos si es el mismo Keenlyside o una réplica el cuerpo que el público sigue viendo hasta el final de la obra. … El de Keenlyside es un Wozzeck capaz de cantar y hablar con la calidez suficiente para balancear el alucinado autismo del personaje con una ternura cálida, suprema en un sufrimiento siempre a flor de piel. … “

” …There are, however, some outstanding features too, notably the performances of Simon Keenlyside and Karita Mattila as Wozzeck and Marie, ably supported by John Tomlinson as the crazed doctor and Gerhard Siegel as the army captain.

The dramatic climax, as the hero drowns at the end, is brilliantly executed, and a real hush came over the audience as they watched Keenlyside, totally submerged in the water, talk for about the last 10 minutes of the opera. …”

 Sebastian Taylor , CamdenReview,7.11.2013

” … Simon Keenlyside grabs our sympathy with a loving portrayal of Wosseck and his suffering at the hands of bullies and demons. But the sadistic bullies come over as caricatures and so, eventually, does Keenlyside’s Wosseck. …”
” … I had my doubts, to begin with, about Simon Keenlyside’s suitability for Wozzeck: he is so naturally athletic and so responsive that shuffling, looking stupid and autistic is something that he can’t plausibly manage. At the start he tried, but it wasn’t long before he became more flexible, reacted more, and entered into an area of feeling where we could follow and identify with him. His voice was in great shape too, after the first 20 minutes or so, and from then on his maltreatment became a matter of acute torment.  …”
” … Simon Keenlyside has done many Wozzecks, and is technically strong (and physically, too). But he’s so elegant and gentlemanly that he doesn’t really do the lowdown and dirty, feral side of Wozzeck’s personality, Wozzeck’s almost more beast than man until after Marie’s murder. Suddenly he becomes articulate (though still inept), and starts to reason rather than simply react. Then, Keenlyside’s virtues came into play, and he sang in perfect character.  …”
Erica Jeal,  January 2014 issue of Opera magazine
“… Here the production was partly the display case for Simon Keenlyside’s first UK appearance as Wozzeck, a role he first took on in Paris five years ago and which, with his all-round fearlessness and unflagging nervous energy onstage, would seem to be made for him. In many ways it is. His performance here was built around a vocal delivery rich in a kind of mellifluous Sprechgesang, his music coalescing with his words. His stance – avoiding all eye contact, limbs contained, head bowed but shoulders bristling – was that of a man ready to explode, but also one feeling diminished by the gaze of those who would dissect him. …”

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Sue August 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm

The ROH have just announced their Autumn/Winter broadcasts on BBC Radio 3.
Wozzeck is programmed to be heard on Monday 2nd December 2013 at 7.30 pm (Not a live broadcast)
And, of course, will be available on iPlayer during the following week.

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