Director Vera Nemirova’s vibrant Salzburg production deliberately removes Berg’s provocative opera from direct association with a specific time or place, placing the drama in a more mythical context. This approach works fairly convincingly until the final scene, where Lulu’s demise at the hands of Jack the Ripper unfolds against the somewhat inexplicable background of a wintry hut in a forest – a place that is as far removed from London’s murky East End as can be imagined.
More controversial, however, is the daring decision to stage the Paris scene at the opening of Act III as a kind of theatrical happening in which the singers emerge from, and intermingle with, the audience. Yet thanks to some nifty camerawork, this section has much greater theatrical momentum than you might expect, and the dramatic immediacy that is so much in evidence during earlier stages of the opera is convincingly sustained.
Almost all the major protagonists are powerfully drawn: from the repulsively alluring Lulu of soprano Patricia Petibon and the scheming Dr Schön of baritone Michael Volle, to the insufferably narcissistic athlete of baritone Thomas Johannes Mayer and the egotistical Alwa of tenor Thomas Piffka. But the real stars of this superb performance are undoubtedly the Vienna Philharmonic and conductor Marc Albrecht, who bring a glorious richness, warmth and emotional intensity to Berg’s astonishing score.