Vera Nemirova’s production of Berg’s Lulu was recorded in the Haus für Mozart at Salzburg in 2010. It’s presented in the now conventional three act version completed by Friedrich Cerha. The sets are painterly, including in Act 1 a giant painting of the title character. Lighting is used to create a very distinct palette for each scene and the detailed direction of the actors is careful and effective. I didn’t see any big ideas but then on this video recording, if there had been any, they would likely have been lost in the incessant close ups and strange camera angles. One “trick” perhaps is that much of the action in Act 3 Scene 1 takes place in the auditorium with a fair bit of confusion as the actors hand out fake cash to the punters. This is, of course, the scene where the glitterati go broke so perhaps some irony is intended.
Central to any Lulu is the title character. Here she is played by Patricia Petitbon. Petitbon is a more than decent singer and has the looks for the part. She also has those eyes which at times make her look not quite of this world. I don’t know how well the vocal performance would stand up if one were listening on CD but the overall effect as theatre is pretty strong. She comes across as a monster; not evil perhaps but definitely a bit unhinged. She may also set a world record for the number of times her ass gets fondled in Act 1. The supporting roles are also pretty good with veteran Franz Grundheber as Grigolsch, Michael Volle as a suitably dangerous Dr. Schön and Pavol Breslik as a less than usually oily Painter. I wasn’t totally convinced by Tanja Ariane Baumgartner’s Geschwitz which seemed a bit flat to me compared to some of the masters of the lesbian mezzo repertoire. The Wiener Philharmoniker sound, as they should, totally at home with this music and DNO Music Director Marc Albrecht gets a very sound performance leaning towards the late romantic aspects of the music perhaps rather than harsher influences.
Brian Large directs for video and is fairly appalling. I think it’s the middle of the second act before we get much idea of the wider stage. Up until then he’s obsessed with close-ups. Often these are very close, close-ups. Two people are locked in an embrace on a bed so let’s give a giant head shot of the one who is not singing. WTF! When he does pull back it’s often from a weird angle and we have no more idea of what is really going on. It does improve a bit after the half way point but it’s a poor effort overall.
Technical quality is fine. The picture is great and the DTS-HD surround sound is vivid. The only extras are some Salzburg trailers and the booklet has nothing particularly illuminating in it. Subtitle options are English, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
This is a pretty decent production and Petitbon’s performance is worth a look. IFF you can stand the video direction.