When William Kentridge visited Oviedo to collect the Princess of Asturias Award for the Arts in 2017, he explained that Spanish masters who inspire him include Goya, Velázquez and Picasso. Of the latter he commented that he seems emblematic of what it is to be in the studio and "think with your hands and with your eyes." Sure, we might add, he also thought with his ears when he created the sets for the Ballets Russes in Paris. And this is precisely what Kentridge does when he tackles an opera and, very especially, Alban Berg's 'Wozzeck' which is being presented these days at the Lyceum: think with his hands, eyes and ears.
Much has already been said about the visual impact of a motley montage, in which a complex stage coexists with spectacular projections.
The scenic movement is a clockwork mechanism that makes an impression in each of the fifteen scenes of the work, but the most impressive thing is the close dialogue that it establishes with the plot and with the score. Kentridge's language, in contact with German expressionism, has captured the essence of Berg and has generated a new work of art: we have Buchner's text, Berg's music and, now, the montage by the South African artist. If he could fit in a glass case, he would deserve to be on display in a museum.
But a good stage direction, by itself, does not make a production good. It has also been widely commented that each and every cast member is flawless: Matthias Goerne as Wozzeck and Annemarie Kremer as Marie, but also Torsten Kerl (Drum Major), Peter Tantsits (Andres), Mikeldi Atxalandabaso (Captain), Peter Rose (Doctor) and the rest of the singers.
Less has been said about Josep Pons, perhaps because as the director we don't pay as much attention to him. Total, as we see it every two for three... But it is that the one of Pons this season is being of an anthology. Every time he lifts the baton to direct works of the 20th century, he leaves us rooted to the spot: 'War Requiem', 'Pelléas et Mélisande' and this 'Wozzeck' will remain etched in our auditory and emotional memory.
Directing Berg's opera is one of the most complicated milestones that a director can face, and he does it from a deep understanding of the score, maximum precision and with all the sensitivity that a show requires where pain and anguish is palpable from the first to the last note. Without being at all fond of lapidary phrases and without nuances, for once I think it's worth affirming, with all the letters, that the 'Wozzeck' that can be seen these days at the Liceo is the best of this season.