Wednesday, April 12, 2006


The other Canadian Opera Comapny production this month was Alban Berg's Wozzeck. I have a special fondness for this work, and for the music of the Second Viennese School in general, so I was looking forward to seeing the full staging of this masterpiece yesterday. Alas, the current production was a disappointment.

The production itself was interesting, and the singing was pretty good, if a bit distant. I think where the production really let me down was in conductor Richard Bradshaw's handling of the score.

I don't know if was that he was conducting for the audience (there was no intermision in this short 3-act opera), but he seemed rushed, and there was little connection between what was going on in the pit and what was going on on stage. There were also some serious balance problems between singers and the orchestra, something I've never seen to this extent before at the COC.

At the end of it however, I think there was a fatal misunderstanding of the context in which Berg wrote the score. We tend to see the early atonal works as representing a break from the past. Although there is something to this from an analytic perspective, Wozzeck is very much a work imbued with a romantic sensibility. Where was the brief pause between the first and second beats of the waltz parts of Wozzeck? Where, if I may say it, was the warmth? It was all too cold, which may work with serialist Boulez works of the 1950's, but doesn't have a place in this piece.

Anyway, for a work that is rarely performed in Canada, this production could have been much more, especially given the COC's usual sensitivity and overall appreciation of other modern works for the stage.