Opera Scotland

Lulu

Music
Alban Berg (born Vienna, 9 February 1885; died Vienna, 24 December 1935)

Text
The composer.

Source
Two plays, Erdgeist (1895) and Die Buchse der Pandora (1901) by Frank Wedekind (1864-1918).

Premières
Two Act form:
First performance: Zurich (Opera House), 2 June 1937.
First UK performance: London (Sadler’s Wells Theatre), 1 October 1962.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 6 September 1966.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Three Act Form:
First Performance: Paris (Opéra), 24 February 1979.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 16 February 1981.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 21 October 1987.
Scottish Opera première: As above.

Background
By the time of his death Berg had more or less completed the composition of Lulu, but had not orchestrated, or finalised work on the third act. His widow tried, without success, to persuade Schoenberg and Webern to finish the work, but it was soon found that the first two acts alone worked quite well as they stood. After her death a complete version, edited and orchestrated by Friedrich Cerha, became the standard form for performance. The particularly intricate structure adopted by Berg can now be better enjoyed, as can the effect of the various doublings of contrasting characters by the same singers – e.g. Dr Schön later turning up as Jack the Ripper to take his revenge on the heroine.

The first performance in London in 1962 was by the Hamburg Opera. The incomplete form of the opera was brought to the Edinburgh Festival twice. In 1966, Ferdinand Leitner conducted Wieland Wagner’s Stuttgart production featuring Anja Silja as Lulu. In 1975 Catherine Gayer and Patricia Johnson appeared in a production from Berlin. Welsh National Opera was the first British company to stage the piece, in 1971.

Main Characters
Lulu (soprano)
Countess Geschwitz (mezzo-soprano)
Painter (tenor)
Dr Schön, a newspaper editor (baritone)
Alwa, his son, a writer (tenor)
Schigolch, an old man (bass)
Jack the Ripper (baritone)

Plot Summary
Lulu seems to exert a magnetic attraction on all the men she encounters, and some of the women. At the outset she is the wife of an elderly doctor, who drops dead on finding her in the arms of an artist. Then the artist, now her husband, kills himself when he finds she is Schön’s lover. After her marriage to Schön many suitors swarm round, including Geschwitz and Alwa. Lulu eventually shoots this husband. Her gradual decline and downfall sees her move to London, followed by Geschwitz and Alwa, where Jack the Ripper kills them all.

The Cast

African
 
Alwa
 Dr Schön's son, a writer
Banker
 
Countess Geschwitz
 
Daughter
 
Doctor
 Dr Goll, Lulu's first husband
Dr Schön
 a newspaper editor
Dresser
 
First Policeman
 
First Servant
 
Groom
 
Jack the Ripper
 
Journalist
 
Lady Artist
 
Lulu
 
Manservant
 
Marquis
 
Mother
 
Painter
 
Police Commissioner
 
Prince
 a traveller in Africa
Professor
 
Prologue
 a Ringmaster
Rodrigo
 an athlete
Schigolch
 an old man
Schoolboy
 
Second Policeman
 
Second Servant
 
Theatre Director
 

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