Berg Lulu, Royal Opera House, London

3.00

It’s taken the best part of a century to achieve the transition of Frank Wedekind’s Lulu from femme fatale to victim.

That’s social change for you. Lulu is the feminist’s everywoman, her very existence shaped and manipulated by the men she encounters. In Wedekind’s plays and Berg’s unfinished but seminal opera she becomes whoever they want her to be. She goes by five different names. She writes the scripts. But she maintains a healthy detachment from her work.

Ditto Christof Loy’s unforgivingly austere staging. Aided and abetted by Herbert Murauer’s resolutely monochrome and minimalist design, the entire drama is dispassionately played out against receding screens with more than a suggestion of the frames and sprockets of film stock. This isn’t so much a staging as an art installation with the focus on the “human animals” – or as Berg’s libretto puts it, the “creepy crawlies” -who inhabit it. The look and feel of the show reflects Lulu’s emotional “disconnection” from her apparent journey of self-destruction. In Agneta Eichenholz’s stunningly cool performance she is a kind of picture perfect Audrey Hepburn in a simple black or white Channel frock. Her astonishment as each of the men are duly dispatched from her life is palpable. “Isn’t this where your father bled to death”, she nonchalantly remarks to Alwa (Klaus Florian Vogt) in their steamy act two encounter. You’d never guess that she repeatedly pulled the trigger.

Loy’s production lives the delusions in so stylised a fashion that even as Lulu is licking the blood of one husband off Dr. Schon’s fingers (the resoundingly authoritative Michael Volle) you remain, as she does, oddly detached. In that sense some may see his realisation as short-changing us. At least Richard Jones, in his famous ENO staging, had the guts to turn Lulu into a survivor. In Loy’s staging the men are the survivors quite literally coming back from the dead to exact their retribution on Lulu in the snuff movie of the final scene. Except that in the final image Countess Geschwitz (the excellent Jennifer Larmore) fills the empty spotlight awaiting Lulu and triumphantly announces her resolve to study hard and fight for women’s rights. So she in a sense becomes Lulu’s emancipation.

A stark and difficult evening, then - particularly if you are new to this piece - but one which throws Berg’s miraculous orchestral score into the sharpest possible relief. An additional star should therefore acknowledge Antonio Pappano’s wonderful work with the Royal Opera Orchestra in bringing this startling and ineffably poignant work to such ripe fruition.

edwardseckerson.biz

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits