In Edinburgh, Opera, Performing Arts, Review on August 31, 2013 at 10:10 am
Photo: Anja Köhler
It is difficult to credit anyone in particular for the birth of this operatic piece. Just like Lulu herself, this opera has many facets. Olga Neuwirth would be the most obvious one to credit, as she did most of the re-writing and re-orchestrating of Berg’s Lulu. But Berg himself took his inspiration from Wedekind’s play of the same name. So here we have a twenty-first century opera, based on another opera, based on a play. And somehow, it all works.
Taking place throughout the 1950s –70s the audience follows Lulu’s tragic life story. Injected with a hefty dose of modernity, Neuwirth deliberately chose to centre her opera on the civil rights movement and the African American community in the United States, which makes American Lulu full of subtle, yet powerful political statements. The mise-en-scène simply works, just as the choice of audio and video material helps to seamlessly transition from one scene to another.
Angel Blue makes a wonderful Lulu with great singing talent, although unfortunately she has a tendency to swallow the last syllable of some words. Jacqui Dankworth as Eleanor is an excellent match for Lulu’s strong voice, and a soothing voice of reason after Lulu’s rollercoaster of emotions. The lack of supertitles for the dialogues is a pity, and would certainly be appreciated by audience.
On the whole, Neuwirth’s take on Lulu is very successful, both in its orchestration and modernisation. The world of music needs more people like her: People who can be smart about making a statement and do so in a wonderfully engaging way.
Antonia Landi for Edfestmag
In Edinburgh, Festival Theatre, Music, Opera, Performing Arts, Review on August 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm
Making an opera feel relevant to the present day and captivating to the audience is always a difficult task. Making an opera that is over three hundred years old relevant and captivating is nothing short of a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Oper Frankfurt did not quite succeed in this. Accompanied by a small ensemble with authentic instrumentation, Barrie Kosky’s take on Purcell’s Baroque opera Dido & Aeneas simply felt a bit too ridiculous at times. Unnecessary nudity and costumes that gave the feel of a fancy dress party all too often distracted from the story. Vocally, Paula Murrihy’s interpretation of Dido was exceptional and gripping, especially during the third act. The three witches were just as enticing, although sometimes overshadowed by their own acting.
Second in this double bill was Bela Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Unlike the interpretation of Dido & Aeneas, Oper Frankfurt did a splendid job of creating the ideal setting for Bartók’s music to shine. Minimalist both in the mise-en-scène and costumes, Bartók’s opulent music took centre stage. By using very few props and an absolutely blank stage, Kosky deliberately relied on the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps; a fitting decision considering Bluebeard’s Castle’s expressionist style.
Both Robert Hayward and Tanja Ariane Baumgartner, in the roles of Bluebeard and Judith respectively, impressed with their stellar vocal performances. Although some of the settings and acting needed further explanation, this was almost always done by dialogue, and is only a minor blemish in an otherwise captivating performance.
All in all, this unique double bill offered the audience to see opera in two completely different ways. Even though the interpretations were slightly disappointing at times, the evening nevertheless showcased some great operatic talent.
Antonia Landi for Edfestmag