This Wozzeck was a surprise on all fronts. I had never heard of the conductor nor any of the singers and was unaware that Sweden had any notable opera houses. However, at under $1, the price was right and in an effort to familiarize myself as much as possible with this work, I thought it would be interesting to hear an interpretation that might not be up to the rest. ....SURPRISE!! This recording ranks with the best of them!
I am in the process of illustrating a complete Wozzeck libretto in graphic novel form after the Metropolitan Opera Gift shop mentioned to me that this is James Levine's favorite work. After illustrating complete librettos for Puccini's Butterfly,The Fully Illustrated Libretto of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Ravel's L'Enfant Et Les Sortileges The Fully Illustrated Libretto of Ravel's L'Enfant et Les Sortileges (Librettos), and Menotti's The Medium The Fully Illustrated Libretto of Gian Carlo Menotti's the Medium available exclusively at the Met Gift Shop and here on Amazon, I hesitated before deciding to tackle Wozzeck. Berg's opera is so advanced and unlike anything else in the operatic repertory (including LULU!) illustrating something like this requires an entirely different artistic style from anything I had done previously.
This recording has given me insights and inspiration starting with the cover itself. It depicts the scene of the unethical doctor examining Wozzeck. Wozzeck's head appears four times its natural size behind a huge magnifying glass. I plan to use this image prominently in my libretto and only regret that I've not been provided with more photos from what must have been a most imaginative production. Like many other Wozzeck recordings, this was recorded from a live performance. As such, there is a unique excitement generated by the performers which is undefinable....hearing the singers moving on stage is not at all distracting and in fact, seems to increase this sense of excitement. Occasionally the singers and orchestra are somewhat out of balance, but for me, this adds to its interest as I am able to hear elements of the orchestration I would otherwise miss.
Well conducted and well sung, would I recommend this recording to a first time listener?.........I'm afraid not. This recording does not supply a libretto which accounts for its extremely reasonable price, but even if a libretto were supplied, Wozzeck is too innovative and complex for the non German speaker to digest. For an unfamiliar listener, the English version conducted by Paul Daniel on the Chandos label is, in my opinion, still the best.