Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Friday, January 06, 2006

More on Wozzeck

The Met's production of Berg's second-best opera is daringly elongated, implacable and bleak (as is appropriate) and so musically flawless that the mind boggles, but this sort of perfection reveals, to me, a certain truth about the work: it is not so much an opera as a gorgeous symphony. Go to see it for the plot--even the murder of Marie or the chilling final moments, both of which are shockers--and you might find yourself wanting dramatically. But if you view the events less as dramatic turns and more as symphonic cues, the work, for my money, is the most thrilling piece of music drama ever composed (with the possible exception of Lulu). Case and point: the long held notes that follow Marie's murder are spectacular musical moments--sharp, violent, tense unisons in a chromatic sea--but are such because of their musical impact, with the murder simply being their cue. In short, Wozzeck does not lack for drama, but it is not dramatic after the fashion of Traviata or even Parsifal or Pelleas. Rather, it is dramatic in the tradition of Symphonie Fantastique or Also Sprach Zarathustra. The music drives the plot, rather than the other way around.

This is, of course, by no means a criticism, merely something new I learned this go-round. I am certain that the next time I am lucky enough to see it, in whatever production, I will worry out a totally new take on this work that contains multitudes.


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