|Images (c) Bernd Uhlig
Lulu – Mojca Erdmann
Dresser, Gymnast – Anna Lapkovskaja Painter, Negro – Stephan Rügamer
Dr Schön, Jack the Ripper – Michael Volle
Alwa – Thomas Piffka
Athlete – Georg Nigl
Schigolch – Jürgen Linn
Prince, Manservant – Wolfgang Ablinger-Speerhacke
Theatre Manager – Johann Werner Prein
Doctor of Medicine, Professor – Wolfgang Hübsch
Lulu's Doppelgängerin – Blanka Modrá, Liane Oßwald
Andrea Breth (director)
Erich Wonder (set designs)
Moidele Bickel (costumes)
Olaf Freese (lighting)
Philipp Haupt (video)
David Robert Coleman (‘adaptation’ of the London Scene)
Jens Schroth (dramatic advisor)
Daniel Barenboim (conductor)
|Johann Werner Prein (Theatre Manager), Georg Nigl (Athlete), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Prince, or whoever he was supposed to be here...)
I am genuinely at a loss to know where to start with this performance of Lulu, but perhaps a little chronological background would be as good a place as any. Having admired Andrea Breth’s Salzburg production of Eugene Onegin, which he conducted, Daniel Barenboim invited her to direct Wozzeck and Lulu in Berlin. Wozzeck was much admired at last year’s Festtage; I thought highly of it, albeit with a few more reservations than many seem to have felt. It was certainly, however, a good enough production to have me look forward to Berg’s second opera. Except that it was not really Berg’s second opera at all: instead, Breth and Barenboim served up a bowdlerised version, a ‘Berliner Fassung’ for which I cannot imagine anyone had called, and which certainly did not seem to satisfy anyone in the theatre. The Prologue disappears completely, replaced by a horizontal actor’s drawn out reading from Kierkegaard and Lulu’s third-act scream, as does the Paris Scene from the Third Act. This is not a reversion to the old two-act version, though, even if one discounts the bizarre excision of the Prologue, in which the terms of the drama are set up, the whole world a stage or a circus. For the final scene, set in London, has been rewritten, adapted, call it what you will, by one David Robert Coleman, of whom I freely admit that I had never heard before. On the basis of this encounter, I sincerely hope that reunion should be indefinitely postponed. One might be able to take the use of a radio – presumably a recording, though it may just have been a strange acoustic trick – during the first act, but Coleman’s sketchy orchestration sounded more akin to an undergraduate’s first attempt to look through Berg’s manuscripts than a finished ‘version’, let alone a competitor to Friedrich Cerha’s standard completion.
|A metaphor for the production?
Why was the latter not used? Presumably permission was refused, not unreasonably, on account of the decision to make cuts. Whose decision? Breth’s? Barenboim’s? The former’s, with the latter’s acquiescence? Why, why, why? It sounded as much a mess as what we saw onstage, of which more anon, despite fine musical performances, of which more anon. Berg’s harmonisation of the hurdy-gurdy Lautenlied is tossed aside in favour of a manifestly inferior version by Wedekind. This is not, of course, simply a matter of an inferior harmonisation, nor indeed of having missed the tune’s first appearance in the excised Paris Scene; dodecaphonic writing and method are completely undermined. This is musical violence from which I am frankly astonished that Barenboim did not recoil. Likewise when it comes to the violence done to Berg’s symmetries, dramatic and musical, is unconscionable; this is not some Italianate number-opera. It is mystifying that one of the truly great musicians of our time, someone who has collaborated closely with Pierre Boulez and Patrice Chéreau, the team that brought us the first ever staging of the ‘complete’ Lulu, and one who has so excelled in the music of the Second Viennese School, should have acquiesced – if indeed, that is what happened. It was, apparently, at Barenboim’s invitation that Coleman put together his ‘version’, steel drums and all – yes, really! an intimation of an early jukebox, we are told – but was the original decision to travesty Berg’s opera made by Breth? Let us assume so, for it is difficult to imagine why someone conducting Lulu for the first time would wish not really to conduct Lulu at all.
|Lulu (Mojca Erdmann), Geschwitz (Deborah Polaski)
|Lulu and Jack the Ripper (Michael Volle)
Again, why, why, why?