VIDEO. “Wozzeck” at the Capitole, in Toulouse, “it's like cinema”

the essential Baritone Stéphane Degout tackles for the first time the title role of Wozzeck, opera by Austrian composer Alban Berg, directed by Michel Fau. To be discovered at the Théâtre du Capitole, in Toulouse, from 19 to 25 November.

The Lyonnais Stéphane Degout, 46 years, has established himself in twenty years as one of the greatest French baritones of his generation. His take on the role of Private Wozzeck in Berg’s masterpiece is eagerly awaited. His partners are mezzo Sophie Koch, in the role of Marie, Nikolai Schukoff as Drum Major and Falk Struckmann as Doctor.

What image did you have of this work before approaching the role of Wozzeck?

I had studied Büchner’s play when I was in high school. I went to see her 25 years ago at the Villeurbanne theater, directed by Jean-Pierre Vincent, with Daniel Auteuil and Dominique Blanc. Everything had impressed me: the setting, the darkness of the story, the tragic fate of this character, and that of the author of the play, who died very young, at 23 years. In Woyzeck, there is nothing that can make up for the situation, which is doomed to global failure. It is a tragedy of little people. This is terrible! After seeing this play, I discovered Alban Berg’s opera. I saw it several times, I also listened to it a lot.

The frightening fate of Private Woyzeck, or Wozzeck in the opera version, has marked generations. You wanted to put yourself in the shoes of this murderer?

It’s a very dark role that has always interested me. But I had the impression that the score required vocal means that I did not have. In 2006 I heard Simon Keenlyside in Wozzeck at the Opera Bastille, and I realized that I could approach this role from the Lied side of the vocal part… When Christophe Ghristi (artistic director of the Théâtre du Capitole, Editor’s note) offered it to me, I felt ready to take up the challenge. The melody is really powerful. This music carries a lot of psychological information, theatrical situations. Everything is extremely well written. By following Berg’s directions, you arrive at something very colorful.

The story recalls certain miscellaneous facts …

Yes, it’s a news item, nothing more. Büchner was inspired by a crime of passion that took place in Germany in the years 1820 (read box). There is something universal about these characters. People crushed by a social context, a personal situation, we meet them every day. We may know some. That it leads to a murder, it is rarer, but it does exist.

On which aspect of the work the director Michel Fau has -He insists ? Social oppression, crime of passion?

It is very faithful to the text and to the indications given by the composer. It is a fast part, which lasts approximately 1 hour 40, and precision is essential. Michel Fau has a way of showing things in a very theatrical way, with bright colors, very straightforward things, and I find that opera lends itself completely to this. He wanted to amplify the pathological aspect of the protagonists who are all more or less crazy.

A few days before the premiere, are you nervous?

Yes and no. The repetition timeline helps get you in the mood. But I realize that this role is a mountain, every moment is important.

How should we approach this very dark fresco of the human condition?

For my part, as a spectator, before analyzing, I would let myself be carried away by the music, the voices and the staging. “Wozzeck” is like cinema. It’s so rich, varied, romantic…

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