Last performance of “Wozzeck”, this evening Thursday, at the Théâtre du Capitole. A dark story enhanced by vivid staging and interpretation.
By a cruel coincidence of the calendar, “Wozzeck”, by Alban Berg, is being played in Toulouse until Thursday evening while “Vienna closes and several big opera houses in Germany are doing the same”. This information, Christophe Ghristi delivered it as a preamble to the performance on Tuesday evening. The message from the artistic director of the Théâtre du Capitole was clear: “Please keep the mask on throughout the evening so that we do not experience such a situation again”. The effort required of the public was reasonable, the opera showing an unusually short duration (1 h 40) for this type of work. And it was accomplished with respect for the rules that can be seen among classical music lovers (and not really elsewhere). Opera in short, “Wozzeck”, created in 1925 from an unfinished text by Georg Büchner, is nonetheless an imposing work. By its subject, of course, which sees a prostitute, Marie, undergo all the insults until a tragic end since she is assassinated by the soldier Wozzeck, the father of her child. By his style too, which fiercely refuses easy lyricism and tearful melodrama. Alban Berg cuts to the chase when he feels that the way is too well marked out. He multiplies the approaches and the ruptures, using the most diverse instruments, in a score of an exacerbated expressiveness (sometimes too much when the music seems to redound with the action). Under the direction of Leo Hussain, the Orchester du Capitole follows these emotional roller coasters with the necessary liveliness and attention to detail. For their role taking, Sophie Koch and Stéphane Degout remain solid in this musical storm. The mezzo-soprano interprets Marie without forcing the line, in a voice that knows just as much how to express deep pain and some flashes of hope.
Victim and executioner
To embody Wozzeck, the baritone has, on the vocal level, everything that his character – victim turned executioner – does not have: great confidence, a sense of the tragic, a brilliant talent. In the cast, tenor Nikolai Shukoff is a drum major of joyful exuberance and ridiculousness. Because, if the story of “Wozzeck” is absolutely black, its treatment gives pride of place to sarcasm, scathing irony, the blasting of clichés. Everything contributes to this creation: the staging by Michel Fau, the costumes by David Belugou, the lights by Joël Fabing and the extraordinary decor by Emmanuel Charles, an unstructured room (that of Marie) somewhere between Munch and Goya, which gradually opens onto an elsewhere populated with nightmarish visions, on “a world so dark that you have to grope your hands to move forward”.