Metropolitan Opera broadcasts continue on Classical 90.5 at 11:00 a.m. this Saturday, February 27, with a performance of Lulu by Alban Berg. Berg based his own libretto on Frank Wedekind's plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box, 1904). The performance will be sung in German and will run approximately four hours. Lothar Koenigs conducts.
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. The drama unfolds in Vienna, Paris, and London. No time is specified in the libretto, but references to current events (revolution in Paris) and characters (Jack the Ripper) suggest a late-19th-century setting.
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 died before completing Act III of the opera, and Lulu was first performed as a fragment. 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.