Visual artist William Kentridge directs Alban Berg’s opera Lulu, starring Marlis Petersen as the irresistible femme fatale who destroys the lives of everyone around her. Lulu, airs on THIRTEEN’S Great Performances at the Met Sunday, April 10 at noon on PBS (12:30 pm on THIRTEEN; check your local schedule).
William Kentridge, who made his Great Performances at the Met debut with an innovative staging of Shostakovich’s The Nose, follows up with this new production.
German soprano Marlis Petersen, who has sung the title role to great acclaim around the world, leads the cast. Susan Graham, who has appeared in 18 different operas at the Met, adds a new role to her company repertory as the Countess Geschwitz, one of Lulu’s most devoted admirers. The men around them include American tenor Daniel Brenna as Alwa; Johan Reuter as Dr. Schön and Jack the Ripper; Paul Groves as the Painter and African Prince; and Franz Grundheber as Schigolch. Welsh National Opera music director Lothar Koenigs leads the performance. Soprano Deborah Voigt hosts the broadcast.
One of the most important — not to mention notorious — stage works of the 20th century, Lulu is the drama of a young woman who sexually and emotionally dominates a wide range of willing victims, both male and female. Herself a victim of society, she seems to embody all the frightening aspects of the human condition, a combination of primal instinct and distinctly modern amorality.
Berg’s score employs the twelve-tone technique pioneered by his teacher Arnold Schoenberg but in a keenly dramatic way that makes it accessible to all kinds of audiences. Berg (Feb. 9, 1885 – Dec. 24, 1935) died before completing Act III of the opera, and Lulu was first performed as a fragment in 1937 at the Zurich Opera House. Efforts to finish the score based on Berg’s notes were hindered by his widow and only realized, after her death, by the Austrian composer Friedrich Cerha, in 1977.
The New York Times praised the production this fall calling it “(a) masterful Lulu … wrenching, ingeniously structured, grimly beautiful, especially in this visually stunning and searing production. The Met’s terrific cast is headed by the charismatic German soprano Marlis Petersen as Lulu…Mr. Kentridge and his team draw compelling performances from a gifted cast, artists who clearly embraced the production concept.”
And The Washington Post observed “What happened on the Met stage on Thursday was an even rarer commodity in many opera houses: serious art, on many levels…And Petersen was remarkable: a true singing actress who made this high-lying part sound almost effortless.”
Lulu was originally seen live in movie theaters on November 21, 2015 as part of the groundbreaking The Met: Live in HD series, which transmits live performances to more than 2,000 movie theaters and performing arts centers in over 70 countries around the world. The Live in HD series has reached a record-breaking 19 million viewers since its inception in 2006.