Lulu. DVD. Barcelona Liceu 2010. Director: Olivier Py. Conductor: Michael Boder. Cast: Patricia Petibon (Lulu), Ashley Holland (Dr Schön), Paul Groves (Alwa), Countess Geschwits (Julia Juon), Franz Grundheber (Schigolch), Will Hartmann (Der Maler).
I remember all sorts of pre-opening hype when this Lulu production originally was seen in Geneva in 2010, attached with a warning for those under 16. Not unexpectedly, the production really does not live up to all this hype. Yes there is (semi)-nudity as well as prostitutes and weird sex scenes, but most of all Olivier Py has created a somewhat over-stuffed production.
The overstuffing consisting mainly of the confusing background, resembling a look at a seedy neighbourhood complete with prostitutes in action, a Parisian wheel and flashing signs reading the likes of “mein Herz ist schwer”, “I hate sex”, “sexe”, “comme toujours”. The action, then takes place in front of this colourful tableau where additional colours, disguises etc. are added.
Visually it is quite arresting. Especially as the DVD camera angles change intermittently and you thus zoom in on various aspects of this spectacle. But as to Olivier Py´s take on the story? What is his take on Lulu? What does he want to tell us? Apart from Lulu being a woman of changing shapes, that is. That I am not sure.
In many ways, Patricia Petibon is a wonderful Lulu. Her acting is stunning and she has a special dignity and allure, which is quite rare and makes ones eyes glued to her. Vocally. she does seem to be stretched out rather thinly. While her middle register seem rather solid, in the high register many notes comes out close to screening.
Ashley Holland is a convincing Dr. Schön, Julia Juon very good as Countess Geschwitz, and also Franz Grundheber as well as Will Hartmann convinces in minor parts. Only occasionally did Paul Groves seem overparted as Alwa.
As for the orchestra, Michael Boder really does not make them their best. His reading of the score fails to draw out the melodies and themes that glue this piece together. Vastly inferior to both Andrew Davis on the previous Glyndebourne DVD as well as Antonio Pappano on the new DVD from Covent Garden. Another alternative could be the previous Zurich Opera production, which however uses the two-act version and not Cerha´s instrumentation (staged first 1979 in Paris) used here.
Personally, I´d probably still go for the Glyndebourne DVD, however none of the available versions are bad options, depending on personal preferences.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Patricia Petibon: 4
Ashley Holland: 3-4
Julia Juon: 4
Olivier Py´s production: 3-4
Michael Boder: 2
Overall impression: 3