Eberhard Kloke talks to Katja Blessin (from the programme booklet for the first performance)
What relevance in terms of performance is your arrangement intended to have?
In terms of performance, the intention was to bring Wozzeck back very close to Büchner’s Woyzeck, providing the opportunity for large-scale identification and the greatest possible sensate reflection for the audience. The idea was to take the material about this man, driven to social misery by work and various deformations, and update it in a way not “smoothed out” by the operatic art form. The proximity to the performers and the theatrical situation should make it possible for everyone to feel like Wozzeck.
So the new arrangement fuels emancipation from the conservative operatic framework?
Yes – but apart from variable spatial situations and dispensing with the orchestra pit, the arrangement likewise allows more radical scene changes which come closer to Büchner’s open structure, with its fragmentary character.
Berg’s version is written for extremely large orchestra; you have reduced the forces to 38 players. How closely were you able to adhere to his original?
Well, I actually did not stray at all. Every note is Berg’s. All I did was condense the wind scoring and eliminate the filler, thus “slimming down” the orchestra, as it were. I did change some dynamics and I had to rethink the divisi parts for the strings at specific moments because my string section is much smaller. I reconceived the onstage music to maintain stringent spatial distribution with a small orchestra consistent with that of a large one. Actually, everything I did was very exciting, all of it aimed at performance in a space other than an opera house.
Apart from the extended spatial options, what effect does your arrangement have on the musical experience?
Immediate proximity to the events allows the audience to experience every sonic change, since the listeners are in the midst of the sounds. Reducing the orchestral forces also removes the extreme dynamic heights, meaning that the singers need not revert to the unnatural operatic tones predominating in our opera houses.
You have eliminated the chorus. How did you come to that decision?
A chorus onstage always means “convention.” In Berg’s case, I think the chorus is more of a concession to operatic convention than a fundamental dramatic component. The chorus can be dispensed with in Wozzeck without detriment to the original substance; specifically, I gave the choral parts in the 1st and 2nd Tavern scenes to the soloists and I transferred the chorus of snoring soldiers to the orchestra. Our view of Wozzeck as an experiment towards an understanding of humankind will justify the concentration on the soloists’ interactions.