[Met Performance] CID:263080

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, December 20, 1980 Telecast

Lulu (10)
Alban Berg | Alban Berg
Julia Migenes

Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper
Franz Mazura

Countess Geschwitz
Evelyn Lear

Kenneth Riegel

Andrew Foldi

Animal Tamer/Acrobat
Lenus Carlson

Frank Little

Peter Sliker

Nico Castel

Hilda Harris

Theater Manager/Banker
Ara Berberian

John Darrenkamp

James Courtney

Betsy Norden

Batyah Godfrey Ben-David

Howard Sponseller

Abraham Marcus

James Levine

Nedda Casei

TV Director
Brian Large

Telecast: Live From The Met

Review 1:

Review of Patrick J. Smith in Opera

The opera season proper opened on December 12 with the now-completed version of "Lulu," in the 1977 staging by Jocelyn Herbert (sets and costumes) and John Dexter (production). I saw it on December 16 and watched the nationwide live telecast on December 20.

Production and sets hew quite closely to the composer's wishes. This is Dexter's best work for the house, and shows a commendable flexibility of approach combined with a mounting dramatic power. If his handling of the confusing first scene of the third act could have been better clarified, the last scene in the garret was presented with stark and trenchant power and poignancy. A touch such as the one Dexter provides of Jack wiping the bloody knife on the portrait of Lulu seems absolutely correct. Certainly that scene now stands revealed as one of the great scenes in all opera.

For the two performances under

Review 2:

Review Julia Migenes-Johnson substituted for an indisposed Teresa Stratas. Migenes-Johnson, an actress-singer, knows the part thoroughly, and can project the innocent wonder of Lulu, as well as a magnetic sexuality, but, though the voice can encompass the fiendish tessitura of the role, in the opera house its reduced size sacrificed a measure of power. Lulu's Lied before she kills Schôn simply did not register, although on television this fault was mitigated. The ensemble sureness of the production told both in the house and on television.

Franz Mazura's Dr Schôn dominated the stage, both for acting and for the clarity of enunciation. He is truly a powerful figure eaten from within, and though his death scene was over-melodramatic, this hardly detracted from one of the Met's most masterful performances. The cold mania of his Jack the Ripper was equally chilling in its impact.

Evelyn Lear as Geschwitz gave a novel interpretation of the role, and to Dexter's credit he integrated it into the proceedings. She sees the figure not as a forceful personality, but one almost pathetic in its feminine vulnerability and this conception accords well with the reduced state of her voice. By emphasizing Geschwitz's hopeless infatuation in its essentially passive aspect her appearance in the final scene is rendered immeasurably poignant - her decision to return to the university and fight for women's rights is voiced not as a fact, but as a doomed illusion.

Of the rest of the cast the finely crafted senescent decadence of Andrew Foldi's Schigolch was once again an especial pleasure. Kenneth Riegl made a strong Alwa, but his voice simply does not have the lyricism that the role, for all its difficulties, needs to off-set the son from the father. Lenus Carlson capered about as the Acrobat, and sang well enough, but he needs more stage presence for the role.

James Levine's conducting has always emphasized the romantic aspects of the score, and it was beautifully played by the orchestra, who are now used to the writing.

I have only one cavil: the opera should be sung in English (particularly since the cast is mostly English-speaking) until the work becomes familiar. The text is dense, and needs understanding to reveal the many characters Berg has created; also, a good portion of it is spoken. A crucial scene such as the one in which Schôn undermines the Painter and leads him to suicide passes by most of the audience if it is left in German.

"Lulu" is a particularly suitable opera for television, since it does not use a chorus (always difficult to circumscribe on the small screen), and its ensemble nature plays to the strengths of the medium. Brian Large's masterful use of his cameras for close-ups and reaction shots brought the work to vivid life, and voices that were small in the house (Migenes-Johnson, Carlson) had greater impact on television (though Mazura's was commensurately smaller). The English sub-titles clarified the action, but were not always in synchronization - and now and then did not translate important material. It is a credit to the Met that they have insisted on including operas like "Lulu" and "Mahagonny" as well as the usual star-oriented fare for these efforts, which have brought opera of all types to a far wider audience than the Met has ever achieved.

Photograph of Julia Migenes as Lulu by James Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera.

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