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It was 1917, precisely a hundred years before the release of this new staging at the Salzburg Festival, when Alban Berg decided to set into music Georg Büchner’s fragment “Woyzeck” that tells how a simple army batman, much put upon, suddenly explodes into violence. In this short drama, exposing the rudiments of emotional life, the tendons of frustration, desperation, hopelessness and love, Berg saw the conditions of his own time and found here the waiting template for the kind of music he and his teacher Arnold Schoenberg had arrived at only a few years before: the new atonality, a language apt to describe extreme emotional situations. Wozzeck became an immediate artistic and financial success and is seen as one of the century’s most important works.

With inviting William Kentridge, internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions, to stage this new production at the Haus für Mozart, the Salzburg Festival is reviving a great tradition of giving the fine arts significant scope. Kentridge’s work is oscillating between mediums and genres. His drawing, specifically the dynamism of an erased and redrawn mark, is an integral part of his expanded animation and filmmaking practice, where the meanings of his films are developed during the process of their making. The set is dominated by a mountain of platforms, staircase fragments and discarded furniture, where spaces are created by projections of animated drawings, shifting from inside to outside, from tavern to barracks to bombed-out heath.

The flawless cast, excellent up to and into the supporting roles, is headed by Matthias Goerne, one of the leading baritones of our time, who embodies the role, with which he had become closely associated in recent years, for the very last time and in an exhausted, wartorn and menacing way. Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian as Marie was “the discovery of the evening” with “her rich, bright voice that possesses enough steely edge to communicate this gritty personality” (Bachtrack). The Wiener Philharmoniker, led with adamant restraint by Vladimir Jurowski, were “virtuosic”, “acting as an enhancer and interlocutor”. “The audience seemed stunned at the end, yet grateful.”
(New York Times)

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