Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Lulu" in Chicago

Lulu, Alban Berg's seminal modern opera, has opened at The Lyric Opera of Chicago (through Nov 30th). According to an article on the production in the Chicago Sun-Times,  such " . . . works demand our participation in their full theatricality." The article went on to add,

So it is with one of the great if least produced operas of the 20th century -- Alban Berg's "Lulu," which is having a rare revival in a new production at Lyric Opera of Chicago starting Friday. Inspired by two turn-of-the-last-century German stage plays about the ultimate "femme fatale" and composed after the Kansas-born actress Louise Brooks had already immortalized their heroine in G.W. Pabst's 1929 German silent film "Pandora's Box," Berg's opera is a musical and visual phantasmagoria -- a total theatrical experience.

Another article in The Times (from Munster, Indiana) also linked Brooks with the Berg production. Quoting the conductor of the piece, It states, "Davis calls Lulu "the most riveting of all 20th-century opera heroines," who exerts a "fatal attraction" on every man who enters her life." And then goes on to add, "Check out Louise Brooks' mesmerizing portrayal of her in the 1929 silent film "Pandora's Box," based on the original play by Frank Wedekind."
Newspaper and magazine articles linking Alban Berg's Lulu (1934) with Louise Brooks and the character she played in G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929) are increasingly common. And naturally so, as both Berg's opera and Pabst's film were based on Frank Wedekind's play. However, what's interesting is the increasing frequency of such associations. I have collected dozens of examples covering productions going back 30 or more years - and have noticed that beginning with the Brooks' revival in the late 1970's, her name has come to be increasingly associated with the Berg opera.

Why? Not only is it because both Berg's opera and Pabst's film were based on the same Wedekind work, but because Louise Brooks became so clearly identified with the role. With some productions, the singer playing Lulu has been clearly modelled after the silent film star.

For more on this production (I wish I could be there), including video clips and podcasts, check out the Lyric Opera's website at    I would love to hear from anyone who attends a performance. Please post your thoughts.

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