Pappano says of the production that it enables us to concentrate
on these “very strange and disturbed people” in
the interview tacked on to the second disc. The stage action
is indeed set in high relief by the stark yet compelling sets.
This is all prepared on DVD, in fact, by the eerie silence of
the opening titles. Out of black screen emerges the ascending
fourths that themselves announce the Prologue. Everything is
in black and white. The generally simple, black and white sets
tend to emphasize the emotions on stage - the meeting of Geschwitz
(the beautifully toned Jennifer Larmore) and Lulu in Act 2 Scene
1 positively smoulders, for example. The Animal-Trainer (Peter
Rose) is less obviously obsessed with his subject than Gerd
Nienstedt for Boulez. Both Lulu's and August's faces are deliberately
blanked out of emotion. As Lulu shoots Schön, the curtain
has descended by about two thirds - the feeling is claustrophobic,
as if the world is pressing in on all concerned - and on Lulu
in particular. There is no film for the Filmmusik, unfortunately.
Instead, the murdered Schön gets up and walks off stage,
then the characters position themselves for the next scene.
The grim, empty stage that serves for the London scene (act
3 scene 2) accentuates the hopelessness of Lulu's situation.
Lulu's portrait - allegedly brought by Geschwitz - is non-existent;
rather the characters gather in a circular spotlight against
the back of the stage for this moment. After Lulu's death, Larmore
(Geschwitz) once more enters that spotlight as she sings Geschwitz's
magnificently lyrical love song to her beloved.
There is no furniture for the first scene. Men are dressed in
suits, Alwa in a near dress-duplicate of his father. The static,
single-colour background also serves to throw attention on every
gesture of each character. Again, at the onset of Act 3, enigma
is all - as the orchestra tunes, silhouettes mingle in front
of a light blue background; it turns out that this is how the
vital, ruinous drop in Jungfrau shares is set, later, towards
the end of the first scene of Act 3. Alwa is sung by Klaus-Florian
Vogt, who excels in enacting the hormone-driven young man. The
imitations between the voices of Alwa and Lulu - the gap between
statements of their theme become ever close as the seduction
progresses - are expertly managed, as is orchestrally the sensual
entrance of the saxophone.
The 'beggar' who rings the doorbell and interrupts Alwa and
Lulu's impending coitus is the enigmatic Schigolsch (Gwynne
Howell). Their duet - which begins in a single, stationary,
blue-white spotlight - is superbly managed, with a fine sense
of continuing sexual undercurrent. Enter the rather more buttoned-up
Dr Schön (Michael Volle). Volle is in magnificent voice,
and makes, in the final act, a truly creepy Jack the Ripper.
Yet it is the spoken climax of the scene, wherein Lulu declares
her worldly debt to Schön, that carries the most emotional
weight here. Will Hartmann, as the painter driven to suicide,
is persuasive as a besotted victim of Lulu's charms.
Eichenholz's Lulu seems to grow in power until by the end of
act 1, her systematic destruction of Schön is both no surprise
and concurrently a virtuoso display of her power over men. Eichenholz
has the ability to sing the most disjunct lines with the most
wonderfully convincing cantabile - she'd make a great interpreter
of the Webern songs. She has power, too - as when she states
her freedom in the final section of Act 2.
Jennifer Larmore's Geschwitz, although a smaller part, matches
Lulu in terms of expertise and intensity. She comes into her
own in the final act, cuddling Lulu gently while the latter
bargains with Jack the Ripper to stay the night.
Good to see Philip Langridge here, as always the model of eloquence
and sophistication, as behind frosted glass we see Lulu have
a fainting fit. As the Marquis in Act 3, he is the epitome of
slime as he threatens to turn Lulu in to the police. The smaller
roles are uniformly well taken. Heather Schipp especially impresses
as Dresser/Schoolboy/Groom - she's a very street-wise-dressed
schoolboy, by the way.
Pappano paces the moments of drama - the Medical Doctor's fatal
heart attack, for instance - very well. A pity Jeremy White's
heart-attack is so obviously hammed up, especially when thrown
into direct contrast to Alwa's reaction: his hesitant “Herr
Medizin - Herr Medizinalrat ...”. He realizes the yearning
lyricism that shoots through the core of the score, and moments
such as Alwa's cry to the dead Doctor to “Wach auf”
(Wake up) are heart-rending. Pappano also makes aural sense
of the score's most complex moments which, in lesser hands,
usually sound simply ragged, yet he also honours the intense
Romanticism of the orchestral interlude in Act 1 (between Scenes
2 and 3). Act 3 is the real headache for any conductor, with
huge amounts going on at various points. Pappano is not baulked
in the slightest. There is real immediacy here, too, not least
at the moment of Lulu's death, where an orchestral Urschrei
of truly earth-shattering power is unleashed .
Pappano's “extra” is a short almost didactic film
in which Pappano lucidly illustrates Berg's techniques (including
note rows). Pappano sits at the piano - which he uses frequently
to illustrate his points - but short excerpts from the opera
itself are also inserted. This is a lucid, easily followable
discourse on Berg's techniques. Pappano states that Berg “found
a freedom that Schoenberg never found”. Agneta Eichenholz's
interview is fascinating. She is remarkably eloquent in English
and talks of how she learned the part in a year. She isolates
the “rhythm” as the hard part rather than the more
obvious difficulty, the terrifyingly high tessitura Berg sometimes
demands. Her main goal is to act the part, then to sing it,
she says. Lulu is “a little bit of every woman”.
Eichenholz also points to the sets - they “make you feel
naked” and highlight the interpersonal relationships onstage,
particularly Lulu's with Dr Schön. She has learned that
“Lulu is weak and strong at the same time, and that's
A fascinating set, one that is truly thought-provoking and stimulating.