The eternal female
04/18/2005 - and 21, 29 April, 5, 7, 10, 13 May 2005
Alban Berg: Lulu
Lisa Saffer (Lulu), Susan Parry (Geschwitz), Anna Burford (Dresser/Schoolboy/Waiter), Graeme Danby (Professor of Medicine/Theatre Manager/Banker/First Client), Richard Coxon (Painter/Second Client), Robert Hayward (Dr Sch÷n/Jack the Ripper), Jeffery Lloyd-Roberts (Alwa), Gwynne Howell (Schigolch), Robert Poulton (Animal Tamer/Acrobat), Alan Oke (African Prince/Manservant/Marquis)
Paul Daniel (conductor), Richard Jones (director)
ENO Orchestra and Chorus
Richard Jones' 2003 production of Lulu for the ENO was a revelation for many. It presented what had previously often looked like period pornography for slightly specialized tastes as an almost perky adult comedy, with the visual appeal of a grown-up graphic novel. Paul Daniel and the ENO orchestra made the undeniably difficult score lush and richly if uncomfortably emotional. And a superb cast delivered both drama and music. This time round, with only one major role recast and a handful of ensemble roles replaced with comparable performers, disappointment was probably inevitable: even if it was as good, it was never going to be as good for those who are seeing it for the second time with the memory of the impact it had the first time. The witty, design-historically informed set looked just a little tatty ("Mignon" on the peep-show fašade had lost her M); the orchestra didn't seem quite as engaged or, at times, even coherent; and the singers, who perhaps had had less rehearsal for the revival, at times seemed to be going through the motions.
But, allowing for the difficulty of getting into The Producers, it was still about a good a show as you are likely to see in London at the moment, comparable maybe to the sadly suppressed Jerry Springer. Lisa Saffer, heard on 29 April, might not have quite recovered from her indisposition on the opening night the week before ľ singing that and even one further performance in the meantime was not the way to get her voice back to glowing health ľ but she was, as always, fascinating to watch and still thoroughly musical. Susan Parry was a slightly depressive Geschwitz, vocally on the edge of richness and raggedness, but very moving. The men were all reliably unpleasant in appropriate ways. Richard Coxon was suitably rough and sexy as the painter, Robert Hayward was a finely brutal Sch÷n and Jack, a style which he does much better than his furry, distraught Wotan for Phyllida Lloyd, and Jeffery Lloyd-Roberts as Alwa made the role's excruciating tessitura sound natural, although his character was a touch too passive to have an impact. Of the ensemble singers, Anna Burford's two randy male adolescents looked a touch cute (Burford both looks and sounds unavoidably glamorous) but were also quite disturbing to watch, as they should be.