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Thread: Operas by Berg on DVD, blu-ray, or CD

          
   
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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Operas by Berg on DVD, blu-ray, or CD




    Lulu, opera in three acts
    Music by Alban Berg (1885-1935), incomplete, finished by Friederich Cerha (3rd act)
    Libretto by Alban Berg, after the tragedies Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, by Frank Wedekind

    A co-production of the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Barcelona) and the Grand Théâtre de Genève
    Recorded live at the Gran Geatre del Liceu in November of 2010

    Michael Boder conducts the Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu
    Stage Director - Olivier Py
    Stage and Costume Designer - Pierre-André Weitz
    Video Director - François Roussillon

    Cast

    Lulu - Patricia Petibon
    Countess Geschwitz - Julia Juon
    The Painter - Will Hartmann
    Dr. Schön / Jack the Ripper - Ashley Holland
    Alwa / A Negro - Paul Groves
    Schigolch - Franz Grundheber
    Dresser / High-school boy / a groom - Silvia de la Muela
    The Professor of Medicine / The Prince / The Manservant / The Marquis - Robert Wörle
    The Banker / The Theater Manager - Kurt Gysen

    2011 DG release, 2 DVDs, 16:9, region code 0 (worldwide), sound PCM Stereo + DTS 5.1, running time 181 minutes, Optional subtitles in original German + English, French, Spanish, Catalan, no extras. Liner notes include synopsis, track list with character names and duration, production pictures, and a brief essay in English, German, and French. Image: good (not great). Sound balance: good.

    --------

    Warning - not for the faint of heart (nudity, simulated sex, violence)

    --------

    This controversial production stars courageous Ms. Petibon who appears in various states of undress when not entirely naked or not dressed in a bunny suit or a skeleton suit, over visually hostile and ever-moving scenarios featuring harsh colors and neon lights, huge puppet heads, a clown, and an ape. Yes, an ape. And phrases everywhere saying things like "I hate sex" - "Fear and Pleasure" - "Lost Paradise" - "My heart is heavy" - "Death" - "Silence" - "Sex" - in various languages (German, English, French).

    Eurotrash, you will say? Hmm... yes, and no. I confess that the staging is quite compelling and a good match for this opera.

    First of all, fans of Ms. Petibon will be delighted. She looks positively ravishing with her red hair and huge artificial eyelashes, and is in great physical shape to withstand the naked scenes (helped by a thin and transparent body stocking that hides her pubic area, but not much more). Her singing of this difficult role is better than in other DVDs and video clips, when she always impresses me more for her acting and looks than for her singing. Here she is compelling in all three aspects, and carries this production on her shoulders. I haven't seen it all yet, and will be adding to this review as I continue - but so far, her male counterparts are holding the high quality as well. Apparently and according to other reviewers, one negative aspect is Ms. Petibon's less than stellar articulation in German - but since I don't speak a word of German, I can't be the judge of that. Various females in silent roles appear topless, and there are also young gentlemen with half-naked athletic bodies.

    Berg's serialist score that shocked me so much the first time I heard Lulu nowadays is a pleasure for me. I mean, maybe not for my ears, but for *me*, the whole me, yes. Needless is to say that this opera is excellent, and carries a tremendous punch in terms of dramatic impact and tone painting.

    The film of the trial which is supposed to be projected in black and white in the middle point of the performance, with the famous palindromic score, here is acted rather than projected, and is all in black and red.

    A word about conducting - not as good as Andrew Davis' in the - thus far - reference DVD of Lulu at Glyndebourne with Christine Schäfer, but not bad, although one would love to hear a more lively orchestra.

    How does Ms. Petibon compare with Ms. Schäfer? Better looks, sexier, very good acting (a little more fragile than Christine's fierce and cynical Lulu), vocally not as good (but very, very decent). Paul Groves is vocally disappointing, especially weak in his scene with Lulu at the end of the second act, when he goes repeatedly off-pitch. Ashley Holland is much better. Andreas Hörl is good too.

    Staging is more interesting here (by providing more of an oppressive and aggressive atmosphere), although very busy and intrusive (Glyndebourne's more minimalistic approach was less distracting).

    Third act - Ms. Petibon looks stunning as a Marilyn Monroe-kind of blonde. A TV on the back of the stage shows the maestro conducting. A sex shop vitrine slides by, with two women in full frontal nudity. We see the portrait of naked Petibon as Venus (from the first scene) making a comeback. Huge bobble headed figures, more simulated sex acts - a morbid and nightmarish carnival.

    The opening ensemble is well sung. The orchestra seems to wake up. A good start for the third act. Ms. Petibon's acting is very nuanced here. She looks out of control and borderlinish.

    A hardcore porn movie with a close-up of genitals engaged in real sex acts is projected back stage, blurry but still quite visible. Okaaay... we're definitely moving into Eurotrash territory here. This is a bit much. Triple X Lulu. And I though I had seen it all, in terms of operatic stagings! This goes on for a long time, and certainly Mr. Py achieves his objective of making the audience uncomfortable.

    Last scene. Lulu now living in poverty and prostituting herself draws from Ms. Petibon even better acting with deer-caught-in-the-headlights looks, eyes wide open.

    Final touches - Alwa is killed, Jack the Ripper makes his entrance dressed as Santa. Snow falls. It's all very dark and depressing. Franz Grundheber and Julia Juon are good actors and add to the oppressing feel of this scene. Lulu is quiet and subdued, then lonely and despondent. She walks to her death with a sort of detachment, it all seems like a delivery - but does scream "nein, nein" before she is slashed by the Ripper. The dead Lulu gets naked again, open her arms like for a crucifix, quite effective scene. Curtain.

    Wow! What a ride!

    Recommended, but obviously not for everybody. First of all, this is classified as only appropriate for audiences 18 and older. Traditionalists will hate it. I liked it a lot (although there are ups and downs).
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 26th, 2011 at 02:21 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively's Journalist Involved Member Elektra's Avatar
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    Name:  399528_239201829483481_136802016390130_522454_1081850541_n.jpg
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    Coming out in February

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elektra View Post
    Name:  399528_239201829483481_136802016390130_522454_1081850541_n.jpg
Views: 135
Size:  53.9 KB

    Coming out in February
    Another Lulu with Patricia? Wow, she's getting a signature role for herself!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Lulu leaves me confused.

    I first encountered the opera back in 1980: the Met television broadcast, with Julia Migenes doing a superb job stepping in at the last minute for the indisposed Teresa Stratas. I later saw the same production live, with Stratas, at the Met. At the time I thought John Dexter's fairly realistic stage settings worked well, capturing a decadent 1920's feel similar to the great German silent film on the same theme, G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box with Louise Brooks.

    From the photos I've seen, I imagine a somewhat similiar feel, though a bit more stylized, for the earlier Patrice Chereau / Pierre Boulez Paris production with Teresa Stratas. This famous staging marked the premiere of Friedrich Cerha's completed three-act version. Unfortunately, though, I've never seen it, since it's not commercially available on DVD (at least not in the U.S.).

    A few years ago I watched the DVD of the Graham Vick / Andrew Davis Glyndebourne production with Christine Schäfer. Though it has been widely praised, this version didn't excite me as I had expected. The brick wall, spiral staircase set didn't evoke much for me, while Schäfer, for all her vocal prowess, didn't really seem to embody the character's abiding sexual mystery.

    Just recently I bought the Olivier Py DVD, the one reviewed above. To be honest, I haven't finished it yet, and have had to struggle through it so far. I love Patricia Petibon's Lulu, but I'm not sure about the busy, lurid, neon-lit world Py has created around her. Lulu's constant changes of look, from full nudity to bunny to skeleton (not to mention her simulated sex acts), along with other mystifying choices like Jack the Ripper as Santas Claus, leave the production feeling frenetic and unfocused. One could argue, I realize, that the opera is an expressionistic nightmare and lends itself better than most to such extravagant "regie" treatment. But you might also say that Berg's twelve-tone score is already decadent, unmoored enough, and that perhaps a production should provide some kind of grounding in character and visuals, some ballast to the piece's free-floating angst.

    From what I can see in photos and YouTube clips, Nemirova's Salzburg production, also with Petibon, is somewhere between the more conservative work of Dexter and Chereau and the more freewheeling approach of Py. It offers a shock of vibrant colors like Py's staging, but not quite so frenetically busy; things seem a bit more simplified and focused. Then again, some reviewers felt a tension between Nemirova's stage direction and the painter Daniel Richter's striking sets, so maybe this production too will prove to fall short.

    In the midst of all this, I'm left uncertain what Lulu is or can be. I don't have a preconceived idea of how this opera should look, just a hope of finding something that speaks to me strongly. Of course, it may be any one of the above productions, upon further consideration.
    Last edited by Amfortas; December 28th, 2011 at 11:56 AM. Reason: Senility

  5. #5
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    You mean Olivier Py, not Christopher.
    I didn't feel the production was unfocused.
    The focus was the carnival/circus/tamed and untamed animals atmosphere, the neon lights were evocative of the superficiality of all human relations, and the figures from infantile imagery (bunny, Santa) seem to have to do with Lulu's history of molestation by her father.
    Nightmarish, yes, and we may not agree on whether or not it was the right focus, but not unfocused in my humble opinion.
    But I hear what you said about some grounding and ballast. Is it possible, though, or even desirable? I liked the Lulu as Borderline Personality Disorder approach.
    What I found excessive was the over-aggressive sexuality. Granted, it's the topic of the opera, but a hardcore movie was a bit much.
    So, maybe wrong focus, or too outrageous a focus, but not without a focus.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #6
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    You mean Olivier Py, not Christopher.
    Yep. Not sure where I got Christopher. Maybe I had him confused with Christopher Alden. Not be confused with his twin brother David Alden.

    Or I'm just confused.

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    I didn't feel the production was unfocused.
    The focus was the carnival/circus/tamed and untamed animals atmosphere, the neon lights were evocative of the superficiality of all human relations, and the figures from infantile imagery (bunny, Santa) seem to have to do with Lulu's history of molestation by her father.
    Nightmarish, yes, and we may not agree on whether or not it was the right focus, but not unfocused in my humble opinion.
    Maybe not, but as your list indicates, there's a lot going on there. Perhaps I just tend to be drawn to a more streamlined approach--unless it's something like, say Stefan Herheim, who throws in everything but the kitchen sink but still manages to make an aesthetic whole of it (largely through beautiful set designs). Py's production seems more fragmented, but of course intentionally so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    But I hear what you said about some grounding and ballast. Is it possible, though, or even desirable? I liked the Lulu as Borderline Personality Disorder approach.
    As I said, I haven't even finished watching the DVD yet, so my even trying to write about it at all is evidence of my own personality disorder.

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    What I found excessive was the over-aggressive sexuality. Granted, it's the topic of the opera, but a hardcore movie was a bit much.
    Don't think I've gotten to the hardcore stuff yet. Now I *am* going to have to finish watching!
    Last edited by Amfortas; December 28th, 2011 at 11:58 AM.

  7. #7
    Schigolch
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    I've watched several productions of Lulu, and the best one in my view is by far Glynderbourne's.

  8. #8
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schigolch View Post
    I've watched several productions of Lulu, and the best one in my view is by far Glynderbourne's.
    Are you speaking mostly of the music, Schigolch, or the production as a whole? I know many people liked the brick-on-brick set, but I found it kind of bland and unilluminating.

    I'm starting to realize that, as contradictory as it may seem, I'm sort of a Lulu traditionalist. I like the idea of the opera set in the decadence of a specific historical period, whether it be the 1880's original setting of Wedekind's Lulu plays, or the late-20s / early-30's milieu from which emerged Pabst's silent film and Berg's opera.

  9. #9
    Schigolch
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    The production.

    I'm even more of a Lulu traditionalist than you are, and this version was the closest to Berg's intention, and the one respecting more of his indications.

    Wedekind's plays are kind of outdated, in my view. Not the case of Pabst's movie, with an incandescent Louise Brooks, that did influence also Berg, that called her "an epiphany of Beauty, in an alienated world".

    Wish Brooks would have had Schäfer's voice...

  10. #10
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    I also have this version of Lulu that I bought a few months ago, but sitting in my unwatched pile.


  11. #11
    Schigolch
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    This production leave you clueless unless you are already a seasoned Lulu fan. The action is unintelligible, not to mention the fact that there is an end changing, with the Countess surviving Lulu. Minimalist, with a spotlight in lieu of Lulu's portrait, no silent film, ...

    Good work from Agneta Eichenholz, though.

  12. #12
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schigolch View Post
    This production leave you clueless unless you are already a seasoned Lulu fan. The action is unintelligible, not to mention the fact that there is an end changing, with the Countess surviving Lulu. Minimalist, with a spotlight in lieu of Lulu's portrait, no silent film, ...

    Good work from Agneta Eichenholz, though.
    Now this is funny. This was my first Lulu, and I found it much easier to understand than the Py version. Less stage clutter leaves you able to follow the characters. I got bored with the busy Py version, found it pretty much indistinguishable from his Contes d'Hoffmann. This is the last time I purchase anything directed by him.

    And I loved Agneta Eichenholz's nihilism - a blank slate for the men around her to exploit any way they wanted.
    Natalie

  13. #13
    Schigolch
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    The problem is that Berg's Lulu has nothing to do with nihilism.... Maybe it's "easier" for you to understand that the Countess is alive at the end of the Opera, instead of being killed by Jack the Ripper... but, again, this is not the original intention. So you are not really understanding Lulu, rather a distorted vision of a great work of art.

    This is for me the major problem with regie theater. I mean, for me this Lulu (I saw this production on stage) was not the first, and not even the tenth, so I can kind of enjoy the director's little mind games. But if you are looking at your first Lulu, you don't have a clue about the real meaning of the piece. I went thru some research about this, chatting with people that were watching her first Lulu at the time (at Teatro Real), and they just endorsed my view....

    You know, this Lulu was a big failure at Teatro Real a couple of years ago. Many people just let the performance, and many others were booing at the end. You can think this was due more to Berg's music than anything else... but that was not the case. Lulu has been staged in Madrid back in the 1980s, at Teatro de la Zarzuela, and it was a big success. The real problem, I think, was the poor staging.

    Of course, Py's version is not much better... except for the generous views of Ms. Petibon's anatomy . It was also not very well received at Liceu.

  14. #14
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    I take your point. It would be like starting one's exploration of Don Giovanni with the Claus Guth version.

    I've still got the Glyndebourne version with Schäfer in my UWP, so I'll give it a whirl and see if I can come closer to the "real" Lulu.
    Natalie

  15. #15
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I think the Glyndebourne is the best Lulu on video, but I did like the generous views of Ms. Petibon's anatomy.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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