[Met Performance] CID:263210

Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, January 3, 1981 Matinee Broadcast
Broadcast Matinee Broadcast

Lulu (13)
Alban Berg | Alban Berg
Teresa Stratas

Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper
Franz Mazura

Countess Geschwitz
Evelyn Lear

Kenneth Riegel

Andrew Foldi

Animal Tamer/Acrobat
Lenus Carlson

Frank Little [Last performance]

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

Rebroadcast on Sirius Metropolitan Opera Radio

Review 1:

Review of Robert Croan of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Met 'Lulu' a standard of quality

NEW YORK - The Metropolitan Opera, which opened in mid-December after a long strike that has curtailed its season, seems currently strongest in the contemporary wing. Berg's "Lulu" and Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites," which have been broadcast on recent Saturday afternoons - "Lulu" was telecast "Live from the Met" before Christmas as well - provide a degree of exposure for those works that would have been unthinkable as recently as a decade ago.

Both John Dexter's production and James Levine's musical realization of "Lulu" exemplify what should be the level of all the company's productions. This is, of course, the "new" three-act version, performed for the first time here, though the Met gave the truncated two-act version of this John Dexter production a few years ago. It has become a much-told tale how Berg's widow suppressed the not-quite-completed final act, but posterity now has the last of "Lulu," competed by composer Frederic Cerha. And what a splendid piece of work it is!

Teresa Stratas, who sang in the Paris premiere of the full version, was the very incarnation of Lulu. With her tiny, slim figure and large emotional palette she emphasized the earthy (not kittenish) aspects and even injected a good bit of humor. While her voice is not beautiful, the way she colored the sung and spoken lines, and the absolute lack of premeditation or conscience with which she murdered Dr. Schoen and committed Lulu's other unspeakable acts, were the accomplishments of a major artist.

Franz Mazura as Dr. Schoen and later, Lulu's nemesis Jack the Ripper, was also a convincing singing actor, though dry of voice and the cast was strong right down the line. Hilda Harris sang smoothly and differentiated with mastery the characters of Wardrobe Mistress, Student and Page, meant to be done by the same singer, one role in each act. Lenus Carlson was athletic of voice and body as the Acrobat/Animal Trainer, and he carried Harris (as the Student) on one shoulder as if she weighed less than five pounds. Tenors Kenneth Riegel (Alwa) and Frank Little (Painter/Negro) were adequate rather than outstanding, but Andrew Foldi has become the definitive Schigolch - a haunting Father Time figure who dominated Lulu even when he was not on stage.

Review 2:

Review of Peter Conrad in the Times Literary Supplement

Forty Years On

Directors remain uncertain whether to assign "Lulu" to the 1890s, where Wedekind's plays belong, or to the 1930s, when Berg composed the music. The decision is more than a decorative one. A fin-de-siecle "Lulu" characterizes the heroine as a fatal vamp, a colleague of Beardsley's arachnoid Salome; transferring the action to the 1930s, as Patrice Chereau did in Paris in 1979, exonerates her - Chereau even called her crypto-Jewish, the victim of a slick, greedy bourgeoisie against whose hypocritical pieties she offended. John Dexter's production at the Met situates itself in the ornate perversity of the 1890s, Götz Friedrich at Covent Garden has, like Chereau, chosen the 1930s. But whereas Chereau's sets recalled the mausolean marble of fascist architects like Speer, brutalizing and diminishing the mere human beings who scuttled along its cold, slippery floors, the designs for Friedrich's version are located in the different imaginary Germany of Expressionism.

The furnishings for the New York production coil and writhe like the serpentine lines of Art Nouveau. The pillars in Schön's house are twisted sticks of liquorice, and the painter's house is a peacock lair outfitted by Tiffany. Handsome though the sets are, they're contradicted by the extraordinary Lulu of Teresa Stratas, for whom the heroine is emphatically not a venereal demon of the 1890s. Her performance attests to Lulu's innocence, even to her moral purity. She sees Lulu not as a genital automaton but as a person who is uniquely and devastatingly honest, and whose honesty terrorizes a society which preserves itself by euphemism and evasion. Lulu doesn't edit or censor her thoughts. She confides the truth of her feelings - casually advising Aiwa that she poisoned her mother or enquiring whether the divan where he's making love to her is the one on which his father bled to death - and her candour can kill.

In a performance of astonishing psychological subtlety, Stratas makes it clear that, though Lulu is a hostage of false morality (she is distressed by the painter's reproving catechism and when he interrogates her about her beliefs can only whimper "Ich weiss nicht"), she possesses a moral code of her own to which she is austerely true. Thus she welcomes Jack the Ripper as her savage, surgical redeemer. They are natural allies: with his knife he is cleansing and cauterizing a fouled world, just as she chastens the men who try to own her by contradicting the love which they invent to rationalize their need of her. Jack comes to her as a judge and a murdering conscience, and is accepted as such by the Lulu of Stratas, who kneels before him pleading with him to stay, tenderly petting and bribing him until he condescends to kill her. Lulu envies the dead, as her wondering elegies over the corpses of her three husbands proclaim: and she has an intimacy with death which also joins her to Jack, whose profession is the retributive enforcement of mortality. Stratas's disturbing, touching stage presence perfectly conveys this unearthliness Wedekind called Lulu an "Erdgeis," but it's the spirituality, not the coarse admixture of earth, which Stratas - fragile, thin, with a child's bemused eyes in a ghost's ancient face - represents. Returning from prison, her hair shorn, wasted, her face grey, she speaks with the detachment and the power of divination of those who have been closely acquainted with death by illness.

In her voice, too, there's an eerie ambiguity. Singing its extensions into the upper register are bright and hysterically shrill, scaling pinnacles of irresponsibility, as in her manic coloratura after the painter's suicide. But when she speaks, as in Lulu's plangent appeal to Schön in the second scene, she sounds smoky, grave, almost baritonal as if two identities, even two sexes, were housed in that slight, tormented body. The Met's Schön and Ripper was Franz Mazura. whose intensity as a singing actor matches that of Stratas. Covent Garden's Schön, Gunther Reich, is a portly, caponized house-husband, and he has been instructed by Friedrich to play the Ripper as a bluff working man, administering the vengeance of a down-trodden class but Mazura's Schön, his voice edgy with violence, has a glowering rectitude which makes his collapse appalling to watch, and his Ripper is a baleful civil servant, bowler-hatted and carrying a medical kit-bag - an implacable, incisive saviour. Both Stratas and Mazura dwell on that precipice of what Artaud called danger, the tense and risky arena of self-exposure and even self-abuse which is reserved to great and daring performers. Between them, they ignited the Met's "Lulu."

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