Need a breather from December’s unrelenting holiday cheer, not to mention sugarplums? The Metropolitan Opera offers an ideal respite with its new production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, which premieres this coming week. A new Wozzeck is a highlight on any cultural calendar, and this iteration is designed and directed by the celebrated South African artist William Kentridge, whose recent work at the Met has included lively, image-soaked productions of two other 20th-century operatic cornerstones, Berg’s Lulu and Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Nose.
Running concurrently at the Neue Galerie, just across Central Park, is an essential exhibition of work by the German Expressionist painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. A major Kirchner retrospective coinciding with a new take on Wozzeck is not just a jackpot of Expressionism—Berg and Kirchner, an Austrian and a German, were direct contemporaries—it provides the perfect opportunity to consider the movement’s embodiment visually and musically. Berg’s opera can be heard as an aural corollary to Kirchner’s hyper-emotional, angst-ridden paintings. And like Berg, Kirchner reveled in dense, ecstatic, super-saturated colors that take possession of the senses.