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By Joel Kasow

LYON, FRANCE , 17 MAY 2009 — Slowly but surely, Alban Berg's Lulu (1937) is entering the standard repertoire, and Peter Stein's new production for the Opéra National de Lyon (28 April) as well as La Scala and the Wiener Festwochen should go a long way in establishing its hold. Stein's eschewal of the now-exhausted tricks of regietheater (and of course the unspeakable Eurotrash that is all too current these days) may have resulted in a dullish evening for the avant-garde, but his in-depth approach ensured that the singers never flagged in their impersonations. At the same time he has neglected neither the comic nor sordid elements of the libretto.

Laura Aikin and Roman Sadnik in Berg's Lulu
Photo: © Stofleth
Photo courtesy of Opéra de Lyon

Total purists might complain that the action was updated to the 1920s, but I would not go that far. Laura Aikin is no stranger to the title role, one she has been singing for more than ten years, and her experience stood her in good stead as the music emerges in a totally natural fashion at all extremes of the range. Stephen West's Dr. Schön was perhaps too easily manipulated, but he too invested his role with total conviction. Thomas Piffka's Alwa tended to shout at the top of his voice, but then he and the others too often had to contend with the tempests unleashed by Kazushi Ono (now the chef permanent at the Lyons Opéra).

Paul Gay's Athlete (perhaps more aptly named the Acrobat) almost overshadowed Franz Mazura's Shigolch. For some reason, Berg's distribution of multiple roles was partially ignored so that the scenically and vocally uncharismatic Hedwig Fassbender amply demonstrated that she was more in place as the Wardrobe Mistress than as Geschwitz. Robert Wörle's multiple assumptions exceeded the composer's prescription which was counter-productive, considering his characteristic profile.

Laura Aikin and Robert Wörle in Berg's Lulu
Photo: © Stofleth
Photo courtesy of Opéra de Lyon

Ferdinand Wögerbauer's simple yet realistic sets offered a suitable background to Moidele Bickel's costumes, but it is Peter Stein who provided the framework in which a high quality performance could be best appreciated.

Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor at Culturekiosque.com. Please click here to access his archive of CD and DVD reviews.

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Title Image: Laura Aikin in Berg's Lulu
Photo: © Stofleth
Photo courtesy of Opéra de Lyon

Related External Link

Alban Berg's Lulu: Complete plot line and synopis, roles and voice types, conception and composition, historic performances (Zurich Opera Premiere, 1937 and Paris Opera Premiere, 1979)

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