The Metropolitan Opera has revived its 1997 production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, directed by Mark Lamos, designed by Robert Israel, and conducted by James Levine. I covered the premiere for the New York Daily News nine years ago. Here’s the last paragraph of my review:
“Wozzeck” is one of the most difficult scores in the operatic repertoire, and James Levine and his peerless orchestra brought it off with breathtaking aplomb. But this is the kind of production in which all the pieces fit together so snugly that to single anyone out for special praise is almost to miss the point. As I left the theater Monday with the fervent cheers of the audience ringing loudly in my ears, I felt certain the Met had never done anything better than this amazing “Wozzeck,” and its spell has not yet worn off as I write these words.
I don’t write many reviews like that, especially about the Met, but I meant every word of this one, and my enthusiasm was confirmed when I saw the production a second time two years later (accompanied by Our Girl, who was visiting New York that week and remembers the evening well). As a rule, the Metropolitan Opera isn’t the place to go for great drama, but the Lamos-Israel Wozzeck is a shining exception to the rule. I rank it with the Met’s productions of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites (directed by John Dexter) and Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades (directed by Elijah Moshinsky) as one of the most theatrically compelling experiences of my operagoing life.
As for the opera itself, regular readers know I’m no fan of Austro-German expressionism, but Wozzeck is one of the supreme masterpieces of twentieth-century opera, a work so overwhelmingly compelling as to overwhelm any possible objections. I simply can’t imagine anyone who loves theater failing to respond to it, especially in a production as gripping as this one.
I took a houseguest to see Wozzeck the other day, and I’m delighted to say that it once again lived up to my expectations. Alas, the opera has always been box-office poison in New York–most of the Met’s regular patrons prefer fluffier fare–which is why the company revives it only at lengthy intervals. This is the first time Wozzeck has been seen there since 2001, and the management has scheduled just four performances, the last of which will be this Friday at eight p.m. Tickets are available for as little as $36. Go if you possibly can–I’m sure you won’t have another chance for some time to come.
For more information, or to order tickets, go here.