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

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  1. #16
    Senior Member Involved Member StLukesGuildOhio's Avatar
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    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.

    But you should recognize that for all the splendor of German Expressionist film, it was painting that established the look of the era, and German Expressionist paintings were busy, neon-lit, and lurid:

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    "Suppose you were an idiot ... And suppose you were a member of
    Congress .. But I repeat myself." -Mark Twain

  2. #17
    Junior Member Recent member rsmithor's Avatar
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    Quote From Berg Lulu "And here come more!" - Met Opera/Lulu/Levine/Schäfer CD

    Berg's Lulu - Met Opera/Levine/Schäfer/2001

    The 3 CD set is available from "The Met Opera Shop". It has a specially designed case, enhanced with photos from the Met/Levine/Schäfer/performances. The recording, taken from the 32 CD Box set, "James Levine - Celebrating 40 Years At The Met".

    Berg Lulu

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    Metropolitan Opera House
    April 21, 2001 Saturday Matinee Broadcast


    Lulu....................Christine Schäfer
    Dr. Schön...............James Courtney
    Jack the Ripper.........James Courtney
    Countess Geschwitz......Hanna Schwarz
    Alwa....................David Kuebler
    Schigolch...............Franz Mazura
    Animal Tamer............Stephen West
    Acrobat.................Stephen West
    Painter.................Clifton Forbis
    African Prince..........Clifton Forbis
    Physician...............Mitchell Sendrowitz
    Professor...............Mitchell Sendrowitz
    Prince..................Graham Clark
    Manservant..............Graham Clark
    Marquis.................Graham Clark
    Dresser.................Jennifer Dudley
    Schoolboy...............Jennifer Dudley
    Page....................Jennifer Dudley
    Theater Manager.........Richard Vernon
    Banker..................Richard Vernon
    Journalist..............Richard Hobson
    Servant.................Andrew Gangestad
    Designer................Jane Dutton
    Girl....................Robin Blitch Wiper
    Mother..................Diane Curry
    Policeman...............David Brimmer
    Clown...................Abraham Marcus

    Conductor...............James Levine

    Production.................John Dexter
    Designer...................Jocelyn Herbert
    Lighting designer..........Gil Wechsler
    Stage Director.............Paul Mills

    Met Opera Shop
    $16.20 Members

    Opera News
    In Review

    July 2001 — Vol. 66, No. 1

    "The first and only Metropolitan Opera production of Lulu, directed by the late John Dexter in the 1976-77 season with designs by Jocelyn Herbert, returned on April 9 in a revival staged by Paul Mills. The addition of Met Titles greatly increased audience access to this intensely theatrical work, and though empty seats grew in number after each intermission, most people seemed willing to give Alban Berg's score another try. They were helped along by a highly committed cast and an impassioned reading by the orchestra under James Levine.

    In a widely anticipated house debut, Christine Schäfer made the title role her own. Schäfer's voice and personality are small and subtle for a theater of this size, but the sets are conceived on a realistically reduced scale, and she seemed at home on the stage. Her portrayal in the first two acts showed little sign of the indisposition she was rumored (though not officially announced) to be experiencing. As if the technical hazards of the role didn't really exist, she sang it all as melodically as can be imagined, without mechanical or metallic traces in the coloratura. Both her tone and her stage presence created a languid, detached character, a calm center for the emotional storm surrounding her. Without harshness or stress, the lyricism of her sound created a magnetic halo of passive feminine attraction, apart from the calculating or willful behavior of which Lulu is also capable. But Act III -- where Friedrich Cerha's orchestration sets in, heavy on the brasses, less delicate or translucent than Berg's -- took its toll on the soprano. Though she still made her points in the intimate final scene, the gambling episode that begins the act found her voice and characterization disappearing amid the general hubbub.

    The drama needs another female figure, Lulu's polar opposite, and Hanna Schwarz supplied it with her serious, ultimately tragic Countess Geschwitz. This character's hopeless longing stands out as quite apart from the attempts of the others to manipulate Lulu to their own ends. Schwarz, vocally dark and steady, always suggested a reserve of strong feeling stored within, and when she finally expressed it, in Geschwitz's monologue before the last curtain, the intensity was still focused in dignity.

    The fact that the audience laughed at Dr. Goll's death of a stroke in Act I testifies to the odd mixture of elements underlying Lulu. If it weren't for the jokes, irony and parody, this drama would be Expressionist tragedy, but Berg wanted to preserve the variety, even the objectivity, of a movie camera. This way, it's clear that the wonderful buildup of tension in Dr. Schön's dialogue with the Painter in Act I, Scene 1, is purely a result of the exchange between these characters, not a commentary by the composer; and that the impassioned interlude following the scene depicts the Painter's delusions, not Berg's. Clifton Forbis's portrayal of the Painter gave all the frustration and despair of an artist whose idealized perceptions are on a collision course with reality.

    As twin pillars of reality, Schön and his son Alwa started out as proper businessmen in dress and manner, only to be unraveled by their obsessive involvement with Lulu. James Courtney masterfully enacted the crisis of self-control that arose from Schön's inability to escape his own inner forces. With feeling deeper than pathos, the bass-baritone articulated his own doom in the curtain line of the dressing-room scene, "Jetzt kommt die Hinrichtung" (Now comes the execution). In his Act III reincarnation as Schön's alter ego, Jack the Ripper, Courtney once again appeared as a well-dressed businessman, but this time he was delivering judgment rather than submitting to it.

    As David Kuebler played him, Alwa was another, younger Dr. Schön, externalizing to excess the inner drives that the elder repressed to excess. Act II, with the Schön parlor turned into a sort of Animal House, shows Alwa starting to come apart, thanks to his infatuation with Lulu -- expressed by Kuebler through a keen focus of vocal tone. This act is difficult to clarify or hold together, but the Met team managed to do both.

    Given the task of memorizing and executing such difficult voice parts, it's something of a miracle that these singers could act so well. Character tenor Graham Clark created three entirely different people as the Prince, Manservant and Marquis: with help from the makeup department, he could scarcely be recognized. Vocally, his insidious Marquis in Act III was sleazy and elegant at the same time. Stephen West, stentorian of voice, flexed his muscles narcissistically as the Acrobat, a vital presence. (West also played the Animal Tamer in the Prologue, a similar showoff.) Franz Mazura, who played Schön in the 1980 and '85 revivals, now moved to the role of Schigolch, the ancient former lover whom Lulu passes off as her father. It would be hard to imagine a seedier, shiftier Schigolch than Mazura's, informed with the inner vitality of a timeless survivor. Jennifer Dudley, who also played the Wardrobe Mistress and a Page, made the Schoolboy a memorably overwrought adolescent. The shorter roles were also handled with security and the sense of period that marked the production as a whole.

    At the center of this busy society, Schäfer personified Lulu's mesmerizing fragility, a clever innocence that sparked base motives or reckless passions in others. Levine's leadership, energized but deliberate, went for the score's underlying Romantic warmth, even though this meant more lucidity than urgency, therefore a long evening. At midnight, when the curtain descended on the final scene, Schwarz had delivered Geschwitz's dying words firmly and passionately, a valedictory as dark as the stage itself."

    --RS Opinionated? Yes... At least I have one...
    definition (adj. Holding stubbornly and often unreasonably to one's own opinions)

  3. #18
    Junior Member Recent member rsmithor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    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.
    I think your right to be confused... A must view is "John Dexter's" Berg's Lulu (The Metropolitan Opera DVD)
    December 20, 1980 live performance... here's my mini review... posted on amazon

    "Having just returned from seeing the Met Opera's May 15, 2010 production of Berg's Lulu, I must say the 1977 sets of John Dexter hold up well... What a cast I saw that afternoon... Returning home and playing this DVD, it was as if this was just an alternate cast of what I saw that afternoon at the Met. The production mirrored what is on the DVD... the standouts here are the Lulu of Julia Mingenes; all the notes, her use of body language, and her eyes. Dr Schon/Jack the Ripper of Franz Mazur; what a voice, is outstanding. Alwa of Kenneth Riegel, no milk-toast, but riveting as the dog following Lulu to his end. Countess Geschwitz; Evelyn Lear, outstanding in every way. The rest of the cast, outstanding as well. What's even better, all of Berg's instructions were followed... down to the minute detail in the score. IE: During Dr. Schon's manic faze in Act 2 before he's shot by Lulu, and waving his gun around, he sees Lulu's pursuers around every corner, including the butler... Berg coded those movements in the score, and each pursuer pops up and disappear as as they dart around the room. (with Dr. Schon saying "there's another one")

    Seeing the Met's Lulu live in 2010 was "Awesome" and this DVD confirmed that..."

    Note... The only thing missing in the Met production is the use of the silent film Berg wrote into the score.... Met production used a slide show in the 1980 live broadcast... but dropped the slide show completely during the 2010 Lulu's. The production is first rate... superb work by John Dexter's team with the camera capturing all who are in Lulu's orbit. For added clarity on the dense dialoge in Lulu, I suggest reading the Chandos "Opera in English" Berg Lulu libretto... it's a cheeky", over the top translation by Richard Stokes.

    Click on "Download Booklet PDF...
    Last edited by rsmithor; March 7th, 2012 at 04:34 AM. Reason: link added
    --RS Opinionated? Yes... At least I have one...
    definition (adj. Holding stubbornly and often unreasonably to one's own opinions)

  4. #19
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rsmithor View Post
    I think your right to be confused... A must view is "John Dexter's" Berg's Lulu (The Metropolitan Opera DVD)
    December 20, 1980 live performance... here's my mini review...
    Thanks for the feedback, rsmithor. I would like to revisit that 1980 Met performance; may just have to bite the bullet and order the DVD.

    As for the Olivier Py production, I do think I got more out of it on a second viewing. Still not sure whether I enjoy the weirdness or have just built up a tolerance for it.

  5. #20
    Junior Member Recent member rsmithor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Thanks for the feedback, rsmithor. I would like to revisit that 1980 Met performance; may just have to bite the bullet and order the DVD.

    As for the Olivier Py production, I do think I got more out of it on a second viewing. Still not sure whether I enjoy the weirdness or have just built up a tolerance for it.
    What a timely read...

    Opera Today
    Two Lulu's Two Reviews
    by Jim Zychowicz
    13 Apr 2012

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    Lulu by the Metropolitan Opera

    A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”

    Based on the production that received its Met premiere in 1977, this video makes available John Dexter’s classic presentation of Berg’s opera that James Levine conductor over three decades ago. The Met’s production was a major event because the three-act version of Berg’s score was still new, with houses vying to program it. Even though the opera received a number of fine productions since then, this production of the Met’s Lulu remains a strong and insightful performance, which Levine led masterfully.

    Dexter’s staging offers a conventional approach to this unconventional opera, with wonderfully detailed interiors that give a sense of realism to this extraordinary score. While various obvious places in the video do not disclose the fact that this is a filmed opera rather than an opera conceived as a film, the direction gives a sense of intimacy which allows the viewers to observe the work from a closer perspective than if they were in the audience. It is a credit to the sensitivity of the production staff involved with the film that they were able to convey the interactions well, as in the finale scene of Act 2. Yet the film also gives a sense of this specific production with its closeups of Levine conducting from the pit, especially in the orchestral numbers that are part of Berg’s score.

    One element unique to this production is the setting of the film music ingeniously. With its use of stills which resemble Manga, the section has a timeless quality which fits well into the live action used for the rest of the film. The sepia-tone images and art-deco are entirely appropriate to the production, with a good sense of cinematic continuity.

    The cast was outstanding in its days and their efforts remain laudable. Julia Migenes, perhaps known best for her depiction of Carmen in the film of the opera, is a solid, convincing Lulu. In this role Migenes combines her strong acting abilities with her command of the role. Her coquettish behavior in the first act gives way to an increasingly manipulative persona, which Migenes also expresses well vocally. The penultimate scene in the third act gives a fine sense of how Migenes handles this complex role.

    As Countess Geschwitz, Evelyn Lear gives a classic performance which merits attention for the details she brings to its performance. Lear’s Geschwitz is appealing for the dimensions it offers, as both a foil for some aspects of Lulu and as an individual with a compelling presence. Lear offers a Geschwitz with consummate style, which fits well into the production, especially in her impassioned final scene. Likewise, Kenneth Riegel’s Alwa is memorable for the musical and dramatic depth it offers. Riegel’s supple voice works well in this production, where his voice is neither lost in the full orchestral sound nor harsh in the more dramatic passages of the role.

    The casting is evenly strong, with both the solo passages and ensembles well executed. The opening scene of the third act offers a brilliant rendering of the cocktail party depicted in the libretto, with the solo voices intersecting the ensemble and orchestra with appropriate style. Frank Mazura gives a strong performance in the dual role of Dr. Schön and Jack the Ripper, as does Andrew Foldi as Schigolch. These and the entire cast work well under Levine’s leadership, which shaped this performance from start to finish.

    It is difficult to fault this classic performance of Lulu, except for some aspects that are out of the control of the Met. The color was fine for television in 1980, but it seems faded, even in this well-produced DVD. The sound is rendered well, but suffers at times from the necessary placement of microphones for the broadcast. While not a major obstacle, such details serve as reminders that this is a television broadcast, not a studio recording of the opera. Thus, the subtitles are entirely in English, as would occur in a broadcast. Yet it would be useful to have the original German text as an option for the subtitles.

    With several productions of Lulu available on DVD, this one is a solid choice. Dramatically and musically compelling, this performance has much to recommend. The sensuality implicit in the score is not overtly depicted, and so the parental warnings that occur with other releases of this opera are absent from this video. More than that, this performance has historic significance for being part of the production that introduced the Met’s audiences to Berg’s famous opera.

    Jim Zychowicz

    13 Apr 2012

    Lulu by Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona

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    Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.

    The production was designed by Pierre André Weitz, with stage direction by Olivier Py, and its post-modern approach supports Berg’s score through its vivid settings and facile staging. Unlike the conventional staging of Lulu, as found in another recent DVD which preserves the 1977 Metropolitan Opera premiere of the opera (filmed in 1980), this Barcelona staging plays upon the surrealistic elements of the work to powerful effect. With excellent sound and intense visuals, this recent DG release is a compelling presentation of Lulu.

    The casting is impressive, with Lulu played by Patricia Petibon, and Alwa by Paul Groves. Both singers are fully engaged in their characters both dramatically and vocally. Petibon brings out the vulnerability of Lulu along with her ruthlessness. As the narrative takes the Lulu into increasingly complex situations, Petibon expresses her character’s desperation in her acting and vocal tone, with a sense of timing that serves the music and the dram. Yet at the end, when Lulu becomes a prostitute in London, Petibon brings a sense of detachment to the climax, which allows the action to focus on the actions of Ashley Holland as Jack the Ripper and reactions of Julia Juon as Countess Geschwitz. Petibon’s subtlety allows the staging to emphasize the tragedy, and also brings out the lyrical emphases in various numbers, as with Lulu’s Lied (“Wenn sich die Menschen” in the first scene of act two.

    As Alwa Paul Groves is appealing for performative reasons. The role is well within Groves’ abilities, which receives fine voice in this video. His delivery of the passage “Über die ließe sich freilich eine interessante Oper schreiben” is memorable for the way it works well in the scene yet seems like commentary on the work itself. His clear enunciation of the text and sense of line supports both the part of Alwa and also his strangely intense relationship with Lulu.

    Ashley Holland brings a similar command to the dual role of Dr. Schön and Jack the Ripper, a quality which allows him to build the dramatic and musical tension in the first part of the opera and then, at the end, to bring it to its tragic ending. Holland’s Dr. Schön interacts well with Petibon’s Lulu, as well as the other characters. The complex relationship between Dr. Schön as father and Alwa as his son emerges with appropriate edginess in this production. At the same time the final scene hinges on Holland’s intensity as Jack the Ripper.

    With the role of Countess Geschwitz, Julia Juon creates a sympathetic persona as Lulu’s erstwhile lover and dramatic Doppelgänger. Introduced only in the second act, it is important for anyone taking on the role of Geschwitz to create a solid impression, and Juon does so from the start. Her obsession with Lulu emerges without overstatement, with her final lines haunting. Juon’s performance stands well with Petibon’s, as the two women create strong impressions throughout the performance.

    Supporting all of this is the fine leadership of Michael Boder, who brings a fine sense of timing and balance to excellent sound of the DVD. Boder’s interpretation is strong, as it reflects his sense of interactions of instrumental and vocal music in this complex score. The orchestral outbursts have their place in the drama, and are nicely integrated into the polished whole of the production.

    Yet throughout the performance, the staging stands out for the bold approach to this landmark twentieth-century opera. The carefully considered and and well-thought details make support work. While this results in some provocative images, the results does not seem gratuitous Labeled with a parental advisory for adult content, this DVD makes a provocative staging available to a wide audience. The sensuality of the work emerges in overt elements, like the suggestion of sexual intimacy and the alluring sense of bodies in depicting the lust that is part of the libretto. As strong as this aspect of the production may be, it is never out of place or sensationalist. Rather, this staging makes use of those elements to bring out the narrative elements in ways that sometimes fall short in other productions. At the same time the vivid use of animal images in the prologue and first act make Wedekind’s text come to life memorably. In addition Brechtian elements emerge in the placards with slogans in various languages that punctuate some of the scenes. “Meine Seele” or “I hate sex” seen to be non-sequiturs on their own, but contribute to the entire experience when viewed within the mise-en-scène of this Lulu. As these and other elements work together well in this production, they bring a powerful focus on the dramatic aspects of Berg’s opera in a performance that includes some of the finest interpreters of the work in the first decade of the twenty-first century. A modern conception of the opera, this Lulu is simultaneously accessible for its solid conception of this seminal twentieth-century opera.

    Jim Zychowicz
    --RS Opinionated? Yes... At least I have one...
    definition (adj. Holding stubbornly and often unreasonably to one's own opinions)

  6. #21
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Lulu, opera in three acts, sung in German (composed 1929-1935, premiered 1937 in Zürich)
    Music by Alban Berg (1885-1935), incomplete, finished by Friederich Cerha (3rd act) in 1979 - re-premiered in Paris
    Libretto by Alban Berg, after the tragedies Earth Spirit (1895)and Pandora's Box (1904), both by Frank Wedekind

    Paul Daniel conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de La Monnaie

    Stage Director - Krzysztof Warlikowski
    Dramaturgy - Christian Longchamp
    Set and Costume Designer - Malgorzata Szczesniak
    Lighting - Felice Ross
    Choreography - Claude Bardouil
    Dance and solos choreography - Rosalba Torres Guerrero
    Video Director - Denis Guéguin


    Lulu - Barbara Hannigan
    Gräfin Geschwitz - Natascha Petrinsky
    Theatergarderobiere, Gymnasiast & Groom - Frances Bourne
    Maler & Neger - Tom Randle
    Dr. Schön & Jack The Ripper - Dietrich Henschel
    Alwa - Charles Workman
    Schigolch - Pavlo Hunka
    Tierbändiger & Athlet - Ivan Ludlow
    Polizeikommissar, Medizinatrat & Professor - Gerard Lavalle
    and several other small roles

    Ballet corps - Koninklijke Balletschool Antwerpen


    Video - 2 DVD NTSC color, 16:9, Region code zero
    Audio - PCM 2.0 and DD 5.1
    Subtitles - English, French, Dutch, German
    Running Time - 194 minutes
    The insert contains 9 color production pictures, credits, list of musical numbers with characters and duration, a 2-page synopsis, a 1-page text by the dramaturg, a 2-page text by Barbara Hannigan, all repeated in English, French, and Dutch

    Filmed at La Monnaie, Brussels, October 19 & 26, 2012


    In spite of the poor technical quality of this product - the image is not very sharp (more like VHS quality), sound has a lot of ambiance noise, and the subtitles just quit for long stretches, twice - we are lucky that this exceptional performance was preserved on DVD.

    Barbara Hannigan is arguably the best singer to perform this role at least in the last two decades. Patricia Petibon is miles behind, singing-wise (although of course Ms. Petibon holds her own in terms of looks and sex appeal), and even my previously preferred version with Cristine Schäfer is not as well sung. The whole lot of male singers did very well too (with an exception or two - Charles Workman not as good; Tom Randle and Pavlo Hunka excellent, most others very good), and the La Monnaie orchestra was simply magnificent - also the best rendition of the score I've heard in many years.

    Barbara is utterly sublime in this show. When scantily clad she displays a body in top athletic shape. When clothed and with various wigs, she always looks devastatingly beautiful. In any guise, she sings with great precision and power, helped by her amazing range, and she is able to walk around tip-toeing on pointe shoes with admirable ease. She portrays a Lulu that is both powerful and filled with bubbly, juvenile exuberance. Her energy is endless and she throws herself into the role with total abandon. Wow! What a Lulu! One for the ages, no doubt!

    The prude should avoid this production given some shocking, debauched imagery and the relatively frequent and almost graphic nudity by the dancers - Ms. Hannigan doesn't get fully nude although her tiny and semi-transparent underwear won't hide much. The Countess character is enhanced by another extremely beautiful and sexy singer, Natascha Petrinski.

    Barbara as Lulu in La Monnaie, 2012 - Photo Credit Pierre Philippe Hofmann

    Nothing in this production shocked me, though. First of all, the musical quality is so high that one doesn't even focus much on the staging, sets, and costumes.

    The sets are purposefully garish and unattractive, with the usual derelict, run down environment that is so common in European productions, but this time does seem a bit more appropriate, given this opera's subject matter. They don't change from scene to scene (except for lighting, projections - which by the way are very interesting). Costumes are all over the place - regular street clothes, almost nothing (two pieces of black underwear), goth/punk/drag fare, and so forth.

    The production's concept appeals to Lulu's failed dream of becoming a ballerina, and apparently also makes reference to Alban Berg's daughter who aspired to be an artist. The choreography is full of girls in ballet attire and there is a topless dancer attired as Black Swan.

    This is one of the few shortcomings of this fabulous show: there is too much happening and it is a bit chaotic and confusing for those who don't know the opera well (not my case).

    Acting by the artists is absolutely first rate (especially Barbara who couldn't be any more impressive than that!), and stage direction is very creative, reproducing very skilfully the nightmarish environment of this opera and making a number of pop culture references (e.g. David Lynch).

    In one word, this performance is fascinating. I was already curious about it, since Barbara Hannigan in her interview with us had already mentioned it. Here is what she said:

    "With Lulu directed by Krysztof Warlikowski, there was hesitation in the opera world about his work, which I cannot understand, because he is absolutely an extraordinary colleague and director. He worked very much from the center of the story of Lulu. When I walked into the very first rehearsal and we began to speak, I thought “We have exactly the same ideas about this woman.” All the crazy things I did in Lulu, going on pointe [ballet shoes], falling down, time and time again being pushed around the stage, any of the extreme physical things I did in that piece, certainly fit what was happening both in the libretto and the music. It all made perfect sense.

    We really need this compatible marriage between the director, the conductor, and of course, singers who are interested and willing to do more than just stand and sing, to really incorporate – in the true sense of the word – the characters.

    ... Ah, it was amazing. It was really one of those “the role of your lifetime.” It’s such a huge part; to prepare it is more than one year of work, not just vocally but also emotionally, in the attempts to incorporate such an extraordinary character. I felt really fortunate that we had Krysztof Warlikowski as our director, because he and I worked very much of one mind. I’m happy that he and I have other projects together in the future. We have two more operas that we will do together. It was very hard for me to let go of Lulu when I finished the nine performances in Brussels. It had been sold out and incredibly well received by almost all the press. It was very hard to say goodbye to this vision. I have the feeling that I didn’t really say goodbye. I think Lulu became part of everything else I do. What she taught me as a character has infused other roles and even other concerts I did ever since, including Agnès [her Written in Skin role]."

    This product is A++ grade (the technical flaws of the DVD don't take away the high quality given the simply outstanding musical values which almost qualify as "best ever," and the confusing staging is OK if one knows the opera well), and a treat for all Lulu fans as well as Barbaran Hannigan's fans. Count me in both categories, so I'm very happy to own this highly recommended DVD.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); February 6th, 2015 at 03:03 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #22
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Another Lulu DVD. This one was sent to me by the conductor and composer David Robert Coleman who orchestrated the third act of this new 2012 "Berlin Version" done by the Berlin Staatsoper. I interviewed Mr. Coleman in Berlin two summers ago and it is quite despicable that I have never transcribed and published the interview, for various reasons. I'm trying to catch up, so I'm watching it now and will be working on the interview, soon.

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

    A production of the Berlin Staatsoper
    Recorded live at the Staatsoper im Schiller Theater, Berlin, April 2012

    Daniel Barenboim conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin
    Stage Director - Andrea Breth
    Set Designer - Erich Wonder
    Costume Designer - Moidelle Bickel
    Video Designer - Philipp Haupt
    Lighting Designer - Olaf Freese
    Dramatic Advisor - Jens Schroth
    DVD Video Director - Michael Beyer


    Lulu - Mojca Erdmann
    Countess Geschwitz - Deborah Polaski
    The Painter / A Negro - Stephan Rügamer
    Dr. Schön / Jack the Ripper - Michael Volle
    Alwa - Thomas Piffka
    Schigolch - Jürgen Linn
    An Atlete - Thomas J. Mayer
    The Prince - Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke
    The Professor of Medicine - Wolfgang Hübsch
    The Theater Manager - Johann Werner Prein
    Lulu's doubles - Blanka Modká - Liane Osswald


    This thread contains reviews of several different Lulu DVDs and a recurrent complaint about other productions was the idea that too much was happening in those stagings. Well, over here, it's the opposite. Not much is provided. The staging is static and spare. The entire opera is given in a scrap yard of some sort with vertical metal beams, carcasses of cars piled on top of each other, and some square glass panels. The colors are black and dark gray with some touches of red lighting. Lulu's glitter dress and an occasional other color make an appearance (the Countess' dress is blue).

    Singers are also mostly static, depicted in a puppet-like fashion. This is kept like this throughout the first act, when even when Lulu moves, someone moves her arms for her. So the first act resembles more an oratorio or concert version. Progressively there is a bit more movement. The kind of movement, though, is often people dropping dead, lots of cadavers around. See this trailer which doesn't have the music. Actually the whole things is less appealing than this trailer indicates:

    This version cuts the prologue (and substitutes for a man lying down on the floor reciting a couple of lines from Kierkegaard), cuts the spoken dialogue in Act I scene II (instead the singers are silent), and much worse, cuts the entire Paris scene in Act III so we lose one character, the Marquis. The justification for that is given in the insert as an attempt to restore Berg's symmetrical structure. Uh, what? I respectfully disagree. I'd say it does the opposite. It means that the mid-point of the opera when Berg reverses the notes, is no longer the mid-point. Also the opera opens with the scream that we usually hear in the death scene of the third act. Why?

    Let's talk about Mojca Erdmann, a singer I don't have in great esteem. Here she does a decent job in terms of note accuracy (and she is very, very pretty). She can't do much acting since this production asks her to not move or move slowly. She just stares at the camera (with very beautiful eyes...). Her rendition of the range is accurate, with good high notes. But this staging prevents her from giving the intense, tour-de-force performance that Barbara Hannigan achieves in her version reviewed above. Even vocally she seems a bit child-like - a little doll singing in a bit of monotonous way. OK, vocally good for what the director wanted (I guess, a fragile doll that men manipulate at will - not the wild Lulu we're used to) but she can't shine vocally like Barbara and Christine, or acting-wise like Barbara again, and Patricia.

    The rest of the all-German cast shows of course excellent diction which is not always the case when non-native speakers take upon this difficult vocal score. They are also phenomenal singers. From my trip to Berlin last year, I got the impression that casting in their opera houses is simply excellent with a number of extremely impressive local singers. This cast is very homogeneously terrific, with the exception of the strange choice for the title character. Particularly good (although her role is abridged) was Deborah Polaski, and I also loved Michael Volle, whose baritone instrument is fabulous. Thomas Piffka was a good Alwa.

    The Staatskapelle plays beautifully, in terms of sonority. I'm not as fond of Barenboim's conducting - he takes it slowly at times, making the singers stretch the lines. Weird. The whole thing feels as sleepy as the staging.

    This purposefully static staging does have the advantage of allowing the audience to focus on the music; but the theatricality of this piece (which is of the highest order) does suffer from this approach. At one point this style overstays its welcome and what we get is staging boredom. Oh, and the ending is changed, with the Countess still alive. If there is something that profoundly irritates me in Regie, is changed endings.

    The Filmmusik is played over a projection on the windshield of one of the cars, showing a blinking eye. Nothing else. Not very imaginative.

    OK, by now, I'm close to the end of the second act; this static staging is boring me to death. I'm ready to pay attention to the new orchestration of the third act.

    It uses banjo, harmonium, marimba, cow bells, steel drums, and accordion. The latter is very prominent. It's a bit jazzy. It's lighter than Cerha's version. It is pleasant and beautiful. Like the composer himself told us in an interview with Opera Lively, he did expand on it by adding influences from Boulez and Berio so in my opinion it doesn't sound like Berg. It appears like we went from a Berg opera in acts I and II to something very different and more contemporary (and actually, we did). Do I like it? Yes, I do; it's very compelling contemporary music, but I'd probably enjoy it more as an isolated piece or in a different context. For Lulu, I do still prefer Cerha's third act.

    Overall, I can't recommend this version. The staging is dreadful and boring. Mojca looks great and has good accuracy and nice coloratura but only matches the stage director's version of Lulu, not (if we can call her this way) the real Lulu. The other singers are very good and the Staatskapelle's sound is beautiful but the conducting is not lively, and the third act's new orchestration while very enticing for someone like me who loves contemporary music, sounds too distinct from Berg's own music. And finally, I don't like the cuts, at all. This production messes too much with a masterpiece.

    Staging C-
    Orchestra A
    Conducting B-
    Acting B
    Singing A
    Insert B

    Overall B-, not recommended

    Region code 0 (worldwide). NTSC 16:9 (very good image), sound PCM stereo or DTS 5.1 (very good sound engineering), runtime 156 minutes, subtitles in German, English, French, Spanish and Korean. Insert with only five lines about the production, a synopsis in three languages, credits, musical numbers with duration and characters, 9 production pictures - 2 in color, 7 in black-and-white. One regrets the lack of essays and maybe some words by the stage director justifying her (questionable) choices.

    Photo credit Bernd Uhlig/Staatsoper Berlin, fair promotional use
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); November 22nd, 2017 at 07:21 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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