NEW YORK, N.Y. – Matthias Goerne got to sing the title role of Berg’s “Wozzeck” twice as many times as he bargained for during his trip to New York.
The German baritone performed the part in a concert performance with the Vienna State Opera at Carnegie Hall last Friday. He stayed in town to give a Schubert recital at a Carnegie and wound up taking over the title role in the opening of the Metropolitan Opera’s “Wozzeck” revival on Thursday night after Thomas Hampson became ill with bronchitis.
“It was done I would say to 95 per cent. Everything what they expected,” Goerne said afterward in his dressing room. “Of course you have to accept that little details were missed.”
Goerne made his Met debut in 1998, and in a twist had to cancel “Wozzeck” performances there in 2011 when he needed knee surgery.
The Met contacted his agent on Wednesday to ask about the possibility of having him take over from an ailing Hampson, but Goerne was focused on the Carnegie performance of Schubert’s song cycle “Die schoene Muellerin (The Lovely Maid of the Mill).”
“After the concert I said, ‘I feel tired now. I cannot make the decision now. We have to wait,'” he recalled.
Goerne agreed to sing at noon Thursday, 7 1/2 hours before curtain time. He went to the Met and worked with music director James Levine and stage director Gregory Keller from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and got fitted for a costume for Mark Lamos’ abstract 1997 staging.
“They had to change it,” Goerne said of his outfit. “I needed a little bit bigger.”
While studying “Wozzeck,” Goerne had attended the first orchestral rehearsal at the Met last week and the dress rehearsal on Monday.
“I was interested to listen to it, how it goes here with the orchestra and acoustic and so on,” he said.
Levine’s conducting was slightly different than Franz Welser-Moest’s with the Vienna Philharmonic.
“Sometimes there are little details and how they beat,” Goerne said. “A fantastic experience, I have to say.”
And his Marie was soprano Deborah Voigt, who was making her role debut.
“We talked to each other immediately after we finished the performance,” Goerne said. “We had done our debut in Cologne with ‘Tannhauser.’ She sang her first Elisabeth, and that was my first Wolfram. And that was at least 22 years ago.”
Goerne is headed to Johannesburg on Friday for three days of work with the South African artist William Kentridge, who is directing a staging of Schubert’s “Winterreise” that will be seen in Aix-en-Provence, France; Vienna; Amsterdam; Hannover, Germany; Luxembourg; Lille, France; and New York. And then it’s off to Vienna for a “Wozzeck” production, but one for which he’ll have time to prepare. Rehearsals start March 13, a full 10 days before the opening.