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Christine Schäfer, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis
Berg: Lulu - opera DVD
Christine Schäfer (Lulu), Kathryn Harries (Gräfin Geschwitz), Wolfgang Schöne (Dr Schön/Jack the Ripper), David Kuebler (Alwa), Patricia Bardon (Dresser/Gymnast/Groom), Jonathan Veira (Doctor/Banker), Donald Maxwell (Athlete/Animal Tamer), Neil Jenkins (Prince/Manservant), Stephan Drakulich (Painter/Negro)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Andrew Davis
DVD Sub Titles: English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish //Warner has reissued Glyndebourne's 1996 staging of all three acts of Lulu, a much-lauded affair that won the Gramophone Award for Best Video in 1997. Graham Vick's direction is admirable not only for what it achieves but also for what it avoids. With its redbrick interior, upward-curving staircase and minimal furnishings, the stage-set has a spartan air, enlivened by a central hole in the floor through which characters disappear and emerge according to the needs of the drama. Costumes have a generalised present-day feel, and the recourse to mobile phones was a prescient touch. Crucially, this staging doesn't encumber the opera with a specious extra-musical concept or smother it with designer cleverness. The filmed interlude in Act 2 is both a pragmatic realisation of Berg's concept and faithful to the spirit of his intentions: a triumph of dramatic common sense.
Schäfer's Lulu is the best sung and most beautifully voiced yet recorded: diffident, even distanced at the outset, yet assuredly in control as she closes down Dr Schön's emotional space at the end of Act 1 and evincing real expressive pain at her degradation in Acts 2 and 3. Wolfgang Schöne has the right hollow authority for Dr Schön, and brings an appropriately Mr Hyde-like demeanour to his Jack the Ripper alter ego, while David Kuebler's fantasising Alwa is the most complete rendition since Kenneth Riegel's for Boulez. Aloof in her initial emotional exchanges, Kathryn Harries goes on to to find quiet strength and nobility in Countess Geschwitz. Stephan Drakulich's seedylooking Painter is unusually accurate, Donald Maxwell's Athlete over-acted to the point of caricature, while Norman Bailey's Schigolch has a wiliness that makes the part more substantial than usual.
Davis conducts with a sure awareness of shortterm incident and long-term tension. His sense of dramatic pace makes the best case yet for the first scene of Act 3, its mosaic-like succession of exchanges throwing the the second scene's seamless intensity into greater relief. Friedrich Cerha's realisation of this act has come in for its share of criticism, but makes for a musical and dramatic whole such as Berg is unlikely to have altered appreciably had he lived to complete the work.
As directed for video, Humphrey Burton goes to town on facial asides and long-range stares.
The picture reproduces with the expected sharpness of focus, though the sound throws the orchestra a little too far forward – giving voices a slightly distanced, though never unfocused quality. Subtitles are clear and to the point, and the 33 chapter selections well-placed for ease of access. On DVD this performance is now a clear first choice.