• Lulu - Discography on CD and DVD


    Lulu: Ilona Steingruber
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Eugenia Zareska
    Dr. Schön: Heinz Rehfuss
    Alwa: Kurt Rösche
    The Painter: Ratko Delorko
    Schigolch: Dimitri Lopatto

    Conductor: Bruno Maderna (1959) - RAI Orchestra and Chorus

    There is another version with Steingruber as Lulu, in Vienna, mildly interesting, but this one is better, with a good sound, and the fascinating work of Maderna, making an Italian orchestra sound properly Viennese, while at the same time reading the score from a distance. Lulu is (among other things) a romantic opera, not a Romantic or late-Romantic opera, and Maderna knew very well the difference.

    Steingruber was always a second-rate singer, and it shows, though she is sincere enough in her effort. Rehfuss and Lopatto are solid performers, while Delorko and Rösche should had better trade places.

    Overall: B

    Lulu: Evelyn Lear
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Patricia Johnson
    Dr. Schön: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    Alwa: Donald Grobe
    The Painter: Loren Driscoll
    Schigolch: Josef Greindl

    Conductor: Karl Böhm (1968) - Berlin Orchestra and Chorus

    Great sound, solid conducting and nice singing (from most performers). A good version, then... Well, not that good due to the inadequacy of Evelyn Lear's singing, and the lingering feeling after hearing the opera than after all, Berg was not Mahler, not should be made to resemble Mahler. Fischer-Dieskau's Schön is a little bit feeble, but gorgeous from a vocal point of view, and Greindl's is a real luxury as Schigolch.

    Overall: B-

    Lulu: Anja Silja
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Martha Mödl
    Dr. Schön: Ernst Gutstein
    Alwa: Waldemar Kmentt
    The Painter: William Blankenship
    Schigolch: Hans Hotter

    Conductor: Karl Böhm (1968) - Vienna Staatsoper Orchestra and Chorus

    This is a live recording, and the sound is not perfect, but good enough, though the orchestra is sometimes too far lost in the background. Silja was a stunning Lulu on stage. Sadly, as in other roles, her recorded voice is not up to the staging artist. She is head and shoulders above Lear, in any case. Martha Mödl and Hans Hotter are simply unbelievable here, and Gutstein one of the best Schön ever. Alwa and the rest of the cast, just adequate. Again, Karl Böhm produces some moments full of sensuality, even erotic, but more in a Mahler's mold, than in Berg's.

    Overall: B

    Lulu: Anja Silja
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Brigitte Fassbaender
    Dr. Schön: Walter Berry
    Alwa: Josef Hopferwieser
    The Painter: Alfred Szramek
    Schigolch: Hans Hotter

    Conductor: Christoph von Dohnanyi (1976) - Vienna Philharmoniker

    This comes in acceptable sound, but not a fine one, taking into account is an studio version. However, this is an opportunity for Silja to produce a more refined singing, and be the first really good recorded Lulu. Also Fassbaender and Walter Berry are performing very well, so this was a balanced and interesting cast. Von Dohnanyi offers also the romantic lecture, but in this case à la Berg, as it should be.

    Overall: B+

    Lulu: Teresa Stratas
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Yvonne Minton
    Dr. Schön: Franz Mazura
    Alwa: Kenneth Riegel
    The Painter: Robert Tear
    Schigolch: Toni Blankenheim

    Conductor: Pierre Boulez (1979) - Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus

    Finally a complete Lulu. The world premiere was entrusted to Pierre Boulez and this recording was made a few months after the triumphant first performances in Paris. Stratas is a good Lulu, though better on stage than in recording. The rest of the cast is solid, but unexciting. Boulez's clear, analytical, conducting is perhaps the best feature on this CD, that is a must for all opera lovers.

    Overall: B+

    Lulu: Patricia Wise
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Brigitte Fassbaender
    Dr. Schön: Wolfgang Schöne
    Alwa: Peter Straka
    The Painter: Graham Clark
    Schigolch: Hans Hotter

    Conductor: Jeffrey Tate (1991) - France National Orchestra and Chorus

    This is a recording from a live performance, but in good enough sound. I'm partial to Patricia Wise's Lulu, that was my first live Lulu. She is not the best Lulu ever, but she is far from the worst. The rest of the cast is good, with a very, very mature Hotter in one of his last performances. Tate's conducting is also adequate.

    Overall: B

    Lulu: Christine Schäfer
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Kathryn Harries
    Dr. Schön: Wolfgang Schöne
    Alwa: David Kuebler
    The Painter: Stephan Drakulich
    Schigolch: Norman Bailey

    Conductor: Andrew Davies (1996) - London Philarmonic
    Stage Director: Graham Vick

    This semicircular brick wall with the descending stair case and opening in the floor it's a first sight a rather dull and static stage, but it's brilliantly used by Graham Vick to get his singers enter and left the scene, in a straightforward, almost clinical dissection of the libretto and the score. The silent film is projected in exactly the way Alban Berg had in mind. A powerful and very succesful production.

    Christine Schäfer is simply the best Lulu ever. Her top notes are perfect, and she negotiates her way across the many difficulties of the role as if she was strolling in the park. Around her, there is a very solid cast, offering an even performance, and a nice feeling of team work.

    Davies's orchestra is the weakest link here. Yes, it's producing some lovely sounds,... but just too lovely, again this is not a late-Romantic piece, but the first 12-tone opera ever composed. Sure there is romanticism in the score, but it should be played as Berg, not as Strauss or Mahler.

    Overall: A

    Lulu: Laura Aikin
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Cornelia Kallisch
    Dr. Schön: Alfred Muff
    Alwa: Peter Straka
    The Painter: Steve Davislim
    Schigolch: Guido Götzen

    Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst (2002) - Opernhauses Zürich
    Stage Director: Sven-Eric Bechtolf

    This version presents the incomplete two-act version seen at the 1937 premiere with a finale consisting of the Variations and the Adagio from the Lulu Suite. This is a very unsatisfactory solution, when the completed Cerha version is available. Really detracting, with a rather dull production on top. Lulu's body double is not really working.

    Laura Aikin is a seasoned professional, and an expert in contemporary operas. Regrettably, she is not Lulu, though she provides a satisfactory surrogate in the singing area, and quite good acting. The rest of the cast is just so-and-so, perhaps Peter Straka's Alwa is the most interesting apart from Aikin.

    The orchestra is merely competent, nothing really exciting here. On the good side, there is nothing really annoying, either.

    Overall: B-

    Lulu: Agneta Eichenholz
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Jennifer Larmore
    Dr. Schön: Michael Volle
    Alwa: Klaus Florian Vogt
    The Painter: Will Hartmann
    Schigolch: Gwynne Howell

    Conductor: Antonio Pappano (2009) - ROH
    Stage Director: Christof Loy

    This production goes a step beyond mininalism, to use an empty stage, with just some lighting effects to stand for Lulu's portrait, the silent film and indeed anything you can name in the libretto, except the characters themselves... Or, wait, also the characters, that were instructed to just sing and fix a blank stare into the audience. Loy's Lulu has nothing to do with Berg's (in fact, if you are not already familiar with the opera, you can't possibly understand anything about the action, or lack of action, on the stage), but it's strangely succesful as al alternative vision for seasoned Lulu's fans.

    Fortunately, the singers are much better than the staging. Agneta Eichenholz is a fascinating Lulu, singing with abandon, as if there was a ventriloquist telling her lines, but the result is quite attractive. She is also very attractive, too. Vogt's Alwa is probably the closest to the one Berg's had in mind, while Volle is a solid Schön, and Jennifer Larmore a splendid Countess.

    The orchestra sounds great, and for once, not Romantic or late-Romantic.

    Overall: B+

    Lulu: Patricia Petibon
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Julia Juon
    Dr. Schön: Ashley Holland
    Alwa: Paul Groves
    The Painter: Will Hartmann
    Schigolch: Franz Grundheber

    Conductor: Michael Boder (2010) - Liceu Orchestra and Chorus
    Stage Director: Olivier Py

    This production was resembling more Jacques Tati's Playtime, than Berg's Lulu. Too many things are happening on the stage at the same time, and everything is a little bit confusing.

    Patricia Petibon is a notable actress-singer. Her vocality is very stressed in Lulu, but she manages to sing the opera with something resembling confidence, and her Lulu is sensual to a fault. Paul Groves was almost inaudible as Alwa. Ashley Holland was inaudible as Dr. Schön. Good performances by veterans Julia Juon and Franz Grundheber.

    Liceu's orchestra,... well, it was the Liceu orchestra one more time.

    Overall: B-

    Lulu: Patricia Petibon
    Gräfin Geschwitz: Tanja Ariane Baumgartner
    Dr. Schön: Michael Volle
    Alwa: Thomas Piffka
    The Painter: Pavol Breslik
    Schigolch: Franz Grundheber

    Conductor: Marc Albretch (2010) - Wiener Philharmoniker
    Stage Director: Vera Nemirova

    Incredibly enough, there are two DVDs of Lulu released the same year, and with the same singer.

    The sets are really nice, but there are totally divorced from the action, more a distraction than anything else. The singers look confused about their acting, too.

    Petibon is more or less the same than in the Liceu DVD, as could be expected. The surrounding cast is better in the roles of Alwa and Schön, and this provides a somewhat better experience.

    We can get also a better experience from the pit and the orchestra, but this was not really difficult.

    Overall: B
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Opera in-Depth: Lulu started by Schigolch View original post

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