Berg: Lulu

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berg
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Lulu
PERFORMER: Patricia Wise, Brigitte Fassbaender, Wolfgang Schöne, Peter Straka, Hans Hotter; Orchestre National de France/Jeffrey Tate
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 754622 DDD
Only Pierre Boulez’s historic version, a studio recording based upon the 1979 Paris premiere, has previously made the complete three-act score of Lulu available on disc. Tate’s account also derives from a Paris staging, last year’s production by Adolf Dresen at the Châtelet. The tape was made during performances, and despite skilful (and occasionally not so skilful) editing a good deal of extraneous stage noise remains, diminishing rather than enhancing the theatrical effect.

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The main interest lies in the principal female roles, particularly Fassbaender’s authoritative Geschwitz, bringing out the cranky idealism and selfless love of the only character whose motives seem irreproachable. Patricia Wise is astoundingly accurate and technically adroit, but her brittle Lulu seems over-calculating and lacking in the dichotomy between predator and victim. Hotter’s deeply felt, teasingly ambiguous Schigolch is the pick of the men; both the Schön of Wolfgang Schöne and Peter Straka’s Alwa are stiff, unyielding portrayals. In the last resort, Tate’s conducting fails to plumb the emotional depths of what has to be a withering opera; the Orchestre National de France plays wonderfully, but the last ounce of passion is lacking. Lulu lives on a knife-edge between formal rigour and unclassifiable emotion; one step either way and its life force has gone. Andrew Clements