Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 07/21/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Alban Berg's two operas, Wozzeck and Lulu, are the epitome of German Expressionism, like a canvas by Max Beckmann or Otto Dix set to music and staged. Whether you choose to interpret them as powerful sermons against depravity or as paeans to the allure of decadence, you may find them hard to watch - exalted ugliness, glittering gloom.
Lulu portrays the 'career' of a sexually overpowering beauty - femme fatale, black widow, Eve - as she degenerates from pampered mistress to opportunistic seductress to prostitute to victim of a sadist's knife. Her essential vulgarity and narcissism nonetheless prove attractive to artists, composers, men of wealth and influence, and a lesbian countess just as much as to thugs and low-lifes. None of them are capable of touching Lulu's inner being. It's almost impossible not to see Lulu as a portrayal, intended as such or not, of the perversity of German culture in the decades before World War II.
So why watch and hear such a depressing opera? Well, of course, ugliness is as much a valid subject for art as beauty, and Berg succeeds in making this ugliness musically awesome. Berg's use of "twelve-tone" structuralism in his music is extremely strict and intellectual, yet the lush orchestral textures that result are anything but academic. Sometimes his music becomes so intense that it's scary. For a composer who wrote only two operas, his understanding of the human voice as an instrument amazes me. Lulu will stand as the iconic musical expression of 20th C modernism as far into the future as opera survives.
But now the bad news. This is a flawed production, and the flaw is in Christine Schaefer's performance as Lulu. She has neither the physical presence nor the vocal magnificence to carry the role. She sounds whiny and thin when she needs to sound scornful and defiant. She pipes her highest passages like a tin whistle when she needs to blare her physicality over the raging orchestra. Too bad! Every other singer on the stage has more depth of voice; every other portrayal seems utterly 'right' both dramatically and vocally. Without a compelling Lulu, however, this production stalls again and again."
Lulu ou bien Loulou?
Mr. Daniel Zehnacker | 10/12/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Les spécialistes se souviennent de la Lulu de Pabst, mais aussi de celle d'Anja Sija, dans un opéra-filmé qui ressortira peut-être un jour en DVD. Et puis il y eut la référence absolue : celle de l'Opéra de Paris, en 1979. Pierre Boulez osait les trois actes et se payait le luxe d'une mise en scène brillante et intelligente et d'une interprête hors pair : Teresa Stratas. La représentation fut filmée en direct, et retransmise par la télévision, mais... pas de DVD! Il faut donc se contenter de la Lulu de Christine Schäfer et du Covent Garden. Décors minimaux et bonne interprétation, sans plus"
An outstanding performance of a masterpiece
Y.P. | Mount Messiaen, Utah | 01/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the only commercial DVD release of Berg's Lulu in complete 3 acts. I like the performance here. Christine Schäfer is a great champion of modern music and "Lulu of our time". Her performance is outstanding, both vocally and visually. Other singers are also quite good. Andrew Davis leads London Philharmonic in a performance which does Berg's masterwork justice by brining the intricate texture of the music to life. The orchestra's playing is clear enough to follow Berg's scores easily, but the tone is warm enough to sense links to the last romantic masters, like Mahler. Graham Vick's stage direction is, for the most part, commendable and following the scripts. (There are a few regrettable departures, though.) A deserving winner of the 1997 Gramophone Award for Best Video.
A short comment on the 3rd act. I personally strongly recommend 3-act performance over the 2-act truncation. Berg passed away before completing the 3rd act, but he left sufficient material, including almost complete short score of the 3rd act, to his widow. The 3rd act was later completed by Cerha, essentially following Berg's material. Therefore, it is fair to consider the music in the third act "essentially due to Berg himself." (I personally find the music flow between the first 2 acts and the last one to be completely seamless.) The interested reader may find detailed account of this matter in Geroge Perle's (a Berg specialist) book "The Operas of Alban Berg, Volume II: Lulu".
It might be instructive to compare this video with the only other video with complete 3 acts: Pierre Boulez's 1979 l'Opéra de Paris film, which unfortunately is only available as Japanese or Chinese edition, or as bootleg version. I personally prefer the Boulez's. With Stratas as Lulu and Patrice Chereau as director, it really shines! Boulez's conducting is predictably leaner and cooler, and the references to 12 tone music is decidedly emphasized, and romantic elements suppressed.
That said, both videos are outstanding! I certainly have benefited a great deal from both outstanding performances."
drkhimxz | Freehold, NJ, USA | 08/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Just a word for other folks who watch opera as they do operetta or Broadway musicals, for the gratification of the thing in itself. Deeper meanings, musical technicalities, the place of this opera in the history of opera, are all significant attributes...but not for us.
Having just finished watching this version of Lulu, I would say that the story is hackneyed, the setting design at best doesn't help the production, there was some weakness in the initial singing of the lead, but, when all is said and done, it was a gripping production marked by excellent performances which, as I suggested, seemed to suffer little from the ambiance of the set.
I would not argue for or against the musical commitments of Berg, by now you will know whether you accept or reject them. I would say that after the initial adjustment period to the music (as opposed to that in the most recent opera I had heard written in an earlier time period)I found little difficulty in staying attuned to the style."