Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Wozzeck, BBC, SSO @ City Halls

Thomas J Mayer as Wozzeck at City Halls, Glasgow 2014. Photo BBC, Alex Woodward.jpg
There are many matters to consider in Buchner's unfinished script
Whether it is tragic, melodramatic or simply badly clipped
So the action is uncertain and the main protagonist
May be a dirty villain or just violent when he's pissed.

Other questions spring to mind, when listening to Berg:
Is this the beginning of theatre that's absurd?
Where life has no meaning and a painful godless despair
Is the legacy to which every man is heir?

Then there is the matter of the message that it brings.
Is Maria just a slut or victim of the men who pull her strings?
The main man in the meantime has a life that is a wreck,
Worst of all the problem of how you pronounce Wozzeck.

The music is atonal, experimental avant-garde:
(That's a way of saying that it is very hard).
Berg provides a soundscape that is harsh and frantic
But in poetic fallacies it recalls the late Romantic.

The SSO put it on, they call their approach 'semi-staged'.
This is, the singers act a bit, like when Wozzeck gets enraged.
An outline of a larger version which they could have produced
But despite the lack of scenery, this concert does not feel reduced.

The protagonist himself was done by Thomas Mayer
He portrayed a feckless man whose girlfriend is a player.
The pompous drum major seduces her in no time
We watch Wozzeck's descent to death despite he did no crime - 

Expect, of course, for taking to her throat a knife.
To pay her infidelity, she sadly lost her life.
Poor Wozzeck doesn't get away without punishment:
He is the victim of the carelessness of the establishment.

The music is Wagnerian in the way it works.
It provides subtext behind the singing as it menacingly lurks.
Wozzeck in the army is a lowly grunt:
He feels a fear of nature when goes on a hunt.

The orchestra's heavy and the musicians tight
They rumble in the darkness and rage during the fight
Between Wozzeck and his lady's lover.
And the sense of doom does always hover

In the scenes where his son is ignored by his dad:
Even the lighter moments have the threat of the bad.
Wozzeck claims that being poor means no morality...
He is paid back by his bird's disloyalty.

The SSO take it in their stride, 
whether roaring in the violence
Or bringing nuance to the glide
From the party scenes to the final death
They conjure an absurd world
Where misery comes with every breath.

It's not the triumph of the will
It's a Gesamtkunstwerk
Where words and music come together
To illuminate the story hidden in the murk
Of a world that does not care
About the human doings
And a man who wouldn't dare
To think above his station.

In the final doomy scenes
When poor Wozzeck comes to his end
The doctor who had him eating beans
Strolls past with his general friend.
They hear the drowning man
As he accidently dies
They stroll past chatting
And ignore his cries.

It's a magnificent piece
Given energetic show
By a sharp piece of playing
By the SSO.

We may talk of the triumph, the glory
Of the will and the soul
Of the music and the story
And recall the majesty of Sophocles,
But beyond all this, the man of the day
Is the conductor Runnicles. 

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