Now, the curtain is about to rise on Berg’s masterpiece “Wozzeck,” staged by Tony Award-winning theatre director Des McAnuff in his first opera. Unless you’ve been living on the moon, in a cave, with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, you already know who Des McAnuff is. He is the man behind “The Who’s Tommy,” “Big River,” “Jersey Boys,” “Zhivago,” “The Wiz,” “The Farnsworth Invention” and the just announced musical adaptation of The Flaming Lips seminal album “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.”
When Ian Campbell, San Diego Opera’s artistic and general director, asked Des to direct an opera, he already had “Wozzeck” in mind. He was surprised to hear from Des that he was not only familiar with “Wozzeck” but that it was his favorite opera.
“Wozzeck is, without question, one of the great musical accomplishments of the 20th century. Berg managed, in my opinion, to substantially improve, in shear dramatic terms, on Georg Buchner’s “Woyzeck” (the play on which the opera is based) — an extraordinary achievement in itself. Simply put, the opera is a better play than the play” adds Des.
To bring this opera to life Des assembled an impressive design team of Tony Award-winning designers: costume designer Catherine Zuber, set designer Robert Brill and lighting designer Howell Binkley. We like to joke that if an opera could win a Tony Award, “Wozzeck” would be in the running. But Des has his own take on it, “Robert Brill, Cathy Zuber and Howell Binkley are at the forefront of American theatrical design. Each one is a formidable talent, highly skilled and imaginative, but what links them together more than anything is a refreshing kind of disobedience and audaciousness. I consider myself fortunate to be in the company of these great designers”
And disobedience and audaciousness is what one should expect for these performances of “Wozzeck,” which will be sung in English to enhance the theatricality of this short 90-minute explosive opera.
So, what is “Wozzeck?”
“Wozzeck” is not “Carmen,” it is not “La boheme” and it is not “Madama Butterfly.” “Wozzeck” is drama set to music (all opera is), but “Wozzeck” focuses more on the drama, even though the music is rich and complex and incredibly beautiful at times.
“Wozzeck” is an experience that takes you into the fractured mind of the oppressed titular solider in a world that is oppressive, cruel and indifferent. It is not a passive experience to watch “Wozzeck” but one of complete and total theatre that will grab audience members by the seat of their pants and not let go until the very end. “Wozzeck “is pure unadulterated opera (with adultery) and it is unlike anything you have ever seen before on the San Diego Opera stage.
Now is an exciting time in the world of opera and “Wozzeck” is an exciting opera to see.
I hope you will join us.
So tell me, what gets you excited about opera?
Wozzeck opens on Saturday, April 14 at 7 PM. Additional performances are Tuesday, April 17 at 7 PM; Friday, April 20 at 8 PM and Sunday, April 22 at 2 PM. Wozzeck will be performed in English with English text above the stage. Wozzeck contains adult language and adult situations. (619) 533-7000 or www.sdopera.com
— EDWARD WILENSKY