Lulu by Alban Berg

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Lulu by Alban Berg

An ‘opera’ in a prologue and three acts, the libretto was produced by Alban Berg who based it on Frank Wedekind’s plays Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and Die Buchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box). Acts I and II first premiered on the 2nd June 1937 in Zurich at the Stadttheatre; the Act II version on the 24th Fenbruary 1979 in Paris at the Opera. It is set in a German city, Paris and London at the end of the 19th century.

Characters:

Lulu (Soprano)

Countess Geschwitz (Mezzo-Soprano)

A Theatrical Dresser/ A Schoolboy/ A Groom (Alto)

The Professor of Medicine (spoken)

The Banker (Bass)

The Professor (silent)

The Painter/ A Negro (Tenor)

Dr Schon, editor in chief/ Jack the Ripper (Baritone)

Alwa, the son of Dr Schon, a writer (Tenor)

Schigolch, an old man (Bass)

An Admiral Tamer/ The Marquis (Tenor)

The Theatre Manager (Bass)

A Clown (silent)

A Stagehand (silent)

The Police Commissioner (Spoken)

A 15 year old girl (Soprano)

Her Mother (Alto)

A Female Artist (Mezzo-Soprano)

A Journalist (Baritone)

A Manservant (Baritone).

Synopsis:

Prologue

An animal tamer shows his menagerie, including Dr Schon as a tiger, Alwa as a monkey, Schigolch as a worm, the professor of medicine as a reptile, Countess Geschwitz as a crocodile and Lulu as a serpent.

Act I

Scene 1: The professor of medicine has commissioned a painter to paint his wife. As she poses for the portrait, Dr Schon and his son watch. They soon leave, called away by social obligations. The painter is fascinated by Lulu and his obvious feelings cause her husband to have a heart attack.

Scene 2: Lulu and the painter are married by Dr Schon, who hopes that Lulu’s marriage will enable him to stop their own affair and allow him to marry his fiancé. Old man Schogolich comes in and out of Lulu’s home – is he her father, a friend or an old lover? When Schon realises her husband knows nothing about her ways, he tells the painter who then commits suicide.

Scene 3:

Dr Schon introduced Lulu to the theatre and now dances to Alwa’s latest work. Schon and his fiancée are in the audience as Lulu discredits her patron by throwing a false fainting fit. She then says that she has a rich patron waiting to marry her in Africa. Scared at losing her, Lulu tells Schon to write a letter to his fiancée, breaking off the engagement.

Act II

Scene 1: Lulu has married Dr Schon and takes control of the house. The Countess Geschwitz courts Lulu. Schigolch settles in the house and even Alwa is subjected to Lulu. Schon pulls a gun at Lullu and tells her to kill herself. In self-defence, she shoots him and Alwa calls the police.

Scene 2:

Schoigolch, Alwa, the athlete and the Countess has arranged for Lulu to be released. She is suffering from illness and Alwa becomes her protector.

Act III

Scene 1: In Paris, Lulu has taken flight. She attached herself to a marquis who, as a white slaver, sold her to Cairo. He says if she does not go, then he will inform the police. Alwa and the Countess cannot help her and so with the police chasing her, Lulu swaps her clothing with a groom and escapes, followed by Alwa.

Scene 2: In London, Lulu lives with Schogolch and Alwa without any money. Schogolch sends Lulu out to work as a prostitute. Her first client gives her a little money and the second client, a negro, wants to have her first and then pay her. Alwa steps in to kill him, but the negro murders him. Schogolch leaves and the countess stays. The third client is Jack the Ripper who kills both Lulu and the Countess.

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