Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:


orchestration of Act 3 completed by FRIEDRICH CERHA

Teresa Stratas (sop/ Lulu)
Franz Mazura (bar/ Dr Schön/ Jack)
Yvonne Minton (mez/ Countess Geschwitz)
Kenneth Riegel (ten/ Alwa)
Gerd Nienstedt (bass/ An Animal-tamer/ Rodrigo)
Toni Blankenheim (bar/ Schigolch/ Professor of Medicine / The Police Officer)
Robert Tear (ten/ The Painter/ A Negro)
Helmut Pampuch (ten/ The Prince/ The Manservant / The Marquis)
Jules Bastin (bass/ The Theatre Manager/ The Banker)
Ursula Boese (mez/ Her Mother)
Claude Meloni (bar/ A Journalist); Pierre-Yves Le Maigat (bass/ A Manservant)
Hanna Schwarz (mez/ A Dresser in the theatre, High School Boy / A Groom)
Jane Manning (sop/ A fifteen-year-old girl)
Anna Ringart (mez/ A Lady Artist)
Paris Opéra Orchestra/Pierre Boulez.

DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 463 617-2 DG Originals series
(Previously issued on LP DG 2740213 and CD DG 415 489-2GH3) 3CDs [172.00]

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For many years Lulu was known in a two act version. Friedrich Cerha (remember the Cerha Ensemble from those Candide and Turnabout LPs) had obtained the third act materials from the publisher during the early '70s and had secretly been working towards a 'completion'. When it was finished and it became known that a 3 act version of Lulu was to be performed in 1979 (Paris Opera) the Alban Berg Foundation began litigation to stop it. Eventually a compromise was agreed under which the publishers kept the two act version available for performance and the Foundation withdrew its litigation against the publisher.

DG took a courageous decision to record the opera complete using (so I believe) largely identical forces to those used at the Paris Opéra. Boulez directed the recording at IRCAM and the end result was issued by DG at top speed later in 1979. I have not heard the competing versions but they include Böhm and Von Dohnanyi in the 2 act version and Andrew Davis (on a video), Jeffrey Tate and Ulf Schirmer in the complete version.

Lulu is a three act opera. The musical idiom is a combination of atonality, lyricism and Mahlerian romance. The atonality is always present. The singing line is often disconnected from the line of orchestra. The plot is founded on two tragedies by Frank Wedekind: 'Earth Spirit' and 'Pandora's Box'. The storyline is heavy with incident and dialogue. The plot charts the fatal flight of the anti-heroine: her fall and the fall of those around her. This is very much a case of six deaths in three acts. Only the devoted Lesbian lover, Countess Geschwitz, is at all appealing. Lulu (and finally Geschwitz) meets her degrading death at the hands of Jack the Ripper in the East End of London. This is an opera for grown-ups and particularly for those who are ready for unhappy endings - well, there are plenty of those in opera anyway!

DG's original LP production was typically de luxe as was the first reissue during the early 1990s. This issue in the DG Originals series attains the same standards. The full text is given (that's a lot of words!) in German with English translation side by side. There are lucidly readable essays by Michael Oliver and Freidrich Cerha plus a plot outline from the publishers. The translation of the Cerha reads idiomatically - not to be taken for granted as we know! The double thickness box and the booklet are packaged in a card slip-case. DG make good use of this format to make the booklet readable. It would have had to be a much less impressive job if it had had to be encased inside the disc coffer.

The recording and performance is of the very highest standards. Bear in mind that the analogue sound is now more than twenty years old. DG however have always had the highest standards of audio realism. They pay off well in this case and have given the recording a very long shelf-life. All the singers are clear in diction and seem secure in what they have to sing. Stratas herself has not a trace of operatic vibrato. There is poignancy as well as desperation in her acting of the part. Minton catches the tragic spirit of abandonment and hope-forlorn aspiration in Geschwitz's role. Mazura is also excellent but frankly so are they all. The DG recording quite noticeably places voices and instruments in a span in front of you. Other recordings may well seem quite two-dimensional by comparison.

This is clearly a version to cherish. Its spell is both historic and musically enduring. As for the music this appears to represent one of the pinnacles of the Second Viennese School's approach to bel canto - a monument to the marriage of two musical languages. Given the subject matter the surreal nightmare atmosphere is in keeping with the rocking cradle of this richly dissonant yet singable score.


Rob Barnett

Compare three act versions:-

Christine Schäfer; LPO/Davis NVC Arts 6 & 0630-15533-3 (182 minutes: PAL VIDEO). Rec at performances at Glyndebourne during July 1996.

Constance Hauman; Danish National R SO/Ulf Schirmer. Chandos CHAN9540 (three discs: 171 minutes: DDD). Rec at performances in the Royal Riding School, Christiansborg Castle, Copenhagen Aug Sept 1996.

Patricia Wise; French National Orchestra / Jeffrey Tate. EMI CDS7 54622-2 (three discs: 172 minutes: DDD). Rec at performances in the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris on 27, 30 Sept 4 Oct 1991.

Two Act version

Evelyn Lear Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin / Karl Böhm. DG 435 705-2GX3 (three discs: 216 minutes: ADD). rec at performances in the Deutsche Oper, Berlin during Feb 1968.


Rob Barnett

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