Nothing written in the 19th century feels quite so modern as Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck. The dramatic fragment, left incomplete at the writer’s death in 1837, addresses so many contemporary topics, issues such as mental health, domestic violence, and the dehumanising and destabilising effects of arbitrary authority. When complemented by Alban Berg’s edgy, atonal 20th-century score, the work feels even more of our time, making it in many ways an ideal vehicle for Simon Stone, a man with a knack for getting to the heart of the classical canon by interrogating it under a contemporary lens. The Australian director’s determination to drag period pieces into the here and now can sometimes leave elements by the wayside, but this incisive, visceral staging for the Wiener Staatsoper is truly a Wozzeckfor today.

Wozzeck Christian Gerhaher & Anja Kampe in Wozzeckat the Wiener Staatsoper. All photos by Michael Pöhn

Opting to run Berg’s three acts without a break, the build in tension becomes unbearable. Add a pair of searing performances from Christian Gerhaher and Anja...