Pique Dame in Salzburg

Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame is a rather odd opera.  It’s not just that the main plot turns on a pretty bizarre tale of the supernatural but that it also contains a significant number of big set piece numbers that don’t advance the plot at all; the “military children” in Act 1, the Pastoral in Act 2 and the bizarre “Glory to Catherine” chorus in Act 3 aren’t the only ones.  One assumes that they are there so that the composer could interpolate some suitably “Russian” bits because without them it’s just any other opera that happens to be in Russian.

1.children

Continue reading

Wozzeck as puppet theatre

Wozzeck is a tricky piece for a director.  There seem to be two possible approaches.  One can find a character for Wozzeck himself that resonates with contemporary audiences and treat the piece more or less realistically.  That’s the approach taken by both Bieito and Tcherniakov.  Alternatively one can run with the overtly expressionist aspects of the piece and present it in a more abstract way as Peter Mussbach did.  Andreas Homoki’s 2015 Zürich production takes the second route.  The piece is presented as if the characters are puppets in a puppet theatre in a sort of ultra-grim version of Punch and Judy.  It’s visually quite arresting and there are some very well composed scenes.  To give just one example, immediately after Wozzeck has decapitated Marie the chorus appear as nightmarish Maries while Wozzeck sits nursing the severed head.  That said, the concept does pall and maybe hasn’t really got the legs, absent any other real directorial ideas, to carry the piece for two hours.

1-wozzcap

Continue reading