Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wozzeck in Concert

This evening I attended a Houston Symphony Orchestra performance of Wozzeck in Concert at Jesse Jones Hall. The last time I attended an HSO concert of a more "conservative" program all of the $25 seats had sold out, so when I was able to obtain one of these coveted tickets I was afraid that the concert would not be well attended. Honestly, I was so in awe of the seat I obtained at this price level (second row, center!) that I didn't even look behind me to see how many were in attendance.

This is the first time I ever heard Wozzeck live. I wish that it had been a staged version, but unfortunately I don't think that staged version happens very often (the last time was in 2010 by Santa Fe, I believe). If it was purely a concert version I could have focused on the engaging music. This version was, how should I put it, semi-staged? There was no set or costume design per say, just some chairs and a table. However, the singers/actors were running on and off the stage like madmen, and of course dramatic scenes like when Wozzeck kills Marie with a knife by the lakeside were acted out. There was some very strange moments when dozens of stagehands–only later did I realize that it was the chorus–moved at least a dozen seats from the orchestra and a number of musicians took their seat anew at stage right. I didn't quite understand the reason for this change. The work/reward ratio seemed awfully low to me. The same gesture executed on stage left for the drunk tavern scene, however, was much more effective, as I felt a certain "closeness" to the music that was absent when the orchestra is placed so far upstage.

I was so impressed by the HSO's efforts in giving several opportunities for audiences to learn more about this monumental and rarely performed work. Sitting in the second row, I was dazzled by the vocal virtuosity of these singers, especially Roman Trekel, so unusually, tall, slim, and skinny. He looked too disheveled and overwrought to sing his part as well as he did! The spit and saliva spraying from his mouth was noticeable from my seat in the second row, and perhaps even felt by a few audience members in the first!

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