The IU Opera Theatre continues its season of twentieth century works with Alban Berg’s powerful dramatic story of human suffering, "Wozzeck." The title character is a poor, stupid, crazed soldier who seems like a rat in the race for survival.
Wozzeck soldiers, barbers, and even hires himself out as a subject for cruel dietary experiments to get a little money for his girl friend and the child they have had together. He’s abused by the captain he shaves, the doctor who experiments on him, and even his girl friend who prostitutes herself on the side.
Saturday night’s cast was a uniformly strong ensemble. David Meyer sang with great emotion and accuracy throughout as Wozzeck. The Captain of Douglas Barley was a marvel of neurotic self concern. Amy Cope sang strongly as the philandering girl friend Marie. In the small part of Marie’s friend Margret, Patricia Stiles, shone. Allen Saunders was appropriately mechanical as the doctor with his concern for Wozzeck only as a subject for experiment. The pompous Drum Major who has an affair with Marie and then humiliates and beats Wozzeck was brutally portrayed by Jerrad Fenske. Daniel Olsen had nice moments in his acting and solo as a drunken tavern patron.
The IU Opera Theatre’s production of Berg’s opera is conducted by David Effron with stage direction by Franz Grundheber and design by Robert O’Hearn. Although Grundheber has sung the part of Wozzeck many times and is alternating with David Meyer in the title role, this is his first foray into directing.
The original play on the Wozzeck story was by Georg Buechner a young scientist and playwright who died at the age of only twenty-three in 1837. Buechner never finished his play and left it to others to complete the work from completed scenes and sketches. Both theatre goers and opera attendees have found the work has its fascination. Although modern audiences seem to focus on Wozzeck’s insanity and the isolation and intense anguish of his character, both the playwright Buechner and the opera composer Alban Berg saw the work as a vehicle for social protest and an expression of social implication. For both, Wozzeck may be crazy, but as both play and opera amply demonstrate, he’s got reasons.
The IU Opera Theatre’s production of Alban Berg’s "Wozzeck" plays this Friday and Saturday at the Musical Arts Center.