Critics Praise for Kentridge’s Gruesome Production for ‘Wozzeck’ at Salzburg Festival 2017

By Logan Martell

Following its opening at Austria’s Salzburg Festival, William Kentridge’s production of Wozzeck will be coming to the Metropolitan Opera in 2019. And by the looks of it, Met audiences are primed for a major treat.

Shirley Apthorp of Financial Times describes the artistic direction of Kentridge’s Wozzeck as “grim sketches and animations, a return to his earlier medium of charcoal drawings, provide layer upon layer of haunting images to accompany Wozzeck’s visions and torments. Bombed Belgian villages, maps, muddy fields, burnt forests, mangled bodies, zeppelins, crutches, gas masks: Kentridge finds a wealth of pictures for a world consumed by violence and destruction.”

Zachary Woolfe of The New York Times says of the set that “this is a world of crashed airplanes, flickering maps of troop movements and the tension and violence born of endless waiting. Other directors have made of ‘Wozzeck’ a more general societal indictment; Mr. Kentridge indicts war, war, war. A recurring image shows the young son of Wozzeck and Marie, his common-law wife, aging into a soldier, his face thickened by injuries, like something out of the grotesque battlefield prints of Otto Dix or George Grosz.”

The Vienna Philharmonic also was noted by Woolfe for elegantly highlighting the emotionality of the characters. “Despite this orchestra’s myriad seductions, Mr. Jurowski resisted the urge to overplay; the emphasis was on guiding a coherent, accumulating drama. Climaxes — like the unison B note that crescendos to full-ensemble fury, and that final D-minor outpouring — earned their impact honestly.”

Asmik Grigorian was commended for her performance as Wozzeck’s wife Marie, bringing to the role gleeful ghoulishness. James Imam of Bachtrack says “From within a strong cast, Asmik Grigorian as Marie is the discovery of the evening. Her voice is rich, bright and possesses enough steely edge to communicate this gritty personality. Hers is a diabolical, grimly erotic Marie who, far from guilty about her unfaithfulness to Wozzeck, relishes her part in bringing about the protagonist’s demise.”

Matthias Goerne was noted for the gravity he exuded as Wozzeck, wearied, war-torn, and menacing. Imam calls Wozzeck “ a broken man from the start, has a strong physical presence, and the right dark growl in his voice for a role with which he has become closely associated in recent years. He reels through the set, his face knotted in grimaces, and possesses a chillingly empty stare when, devoured by jealousy, he watches Marie cavorting with her new lover.”