With no fussy scenery, and a minimum of props, the staging focuses searingly on Wozzeck as psychopathology rather than social criticism. Gussman's costumes emphasise the pathological: the Captain - a comic-book Hitler in vivid blue; the Doctor - a caricature of a praying mantis in brilliant green, all spindly legs, top hat and tails; Wozzeck and Marie doomed in washed-out grey. The women's bright red wigs and stockings strongly evoke Otto Dix and, in one of the most visually effective scenes, when Wozzeck, having murdered Marie, returns to the dance, the 'black house' is just slightly raised (like a hat) to reveal a mass of dancing red knees.
The starkness of the set and the vividness of the colours serve, paradoxically, to emphasise the richness of Berg's score. Too bad, then, that the musical input does not balance the brilliance of the staging. Only Marilyn Schmeige as Marie is more than adequate vocally, bringing notable expressiveness to the Sprechstimme as well as full-throated singing to the contrasts of coarseness and tenderness in the role. John Brocheler's Wozzeck is dramatically strong, but the voice is not special. Michael Devlin as the Doctor coped with the vocal demands quite impressively while scaling walls or teetering on roofs. Louis Gentile as the Drum-Major and Udo Holdorf as the Captain were adequate, but special mention should be made of Alexander Oliver's cameo appearance as the Idiot, rising, his back to the audience, grotesquely dressed in Marie's clothes. The Netherlands Philharmonic under its principal conductor Hartmut Haenchen was at times ragged, but the biggest disappointment was the failure of the great D minor interlude, the emotional core of the piece, to ignite. The theatre's acoustics may be pretty dead, but that cannot excuse a lack of passion.