Lulu is one of the great operas of the 20th Century, written by Alban Berg in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s and left incomplete, in the orchestration, at his death. It is an opera about the fragility, the impossibility, the fragmentation of desire. It’s about Lulu, who during the course of the opera goes through many lovers and several husbands and each time, there is an impossibility. Lulu can’t be the woman that the men imagine her to be or project onto her. She can never fulfil the desires of being the femme fatale and the faithful quiet wife.
Composer Alban Berg
Librettist Frank Wedekind
Director William Kentridge
Co-director Luc de Wit
Projection designer Catherine Meyburgh
Set designer Sabine Theunissen
Costume designer Greta Goiris
Lighting designer Urs Schönebaum
Approx. 3 hours 22 minutes
World premiere Opera House, Zurich, 1937 (unfinished version); Théâtre National de l’opéra, Paris, 1979 (three-act version)
This production Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam, June 2015; Metropolitan Opera, New York, November 2015; English National Opera, London, November 2016.
Right Into Her Arms
2016 Kinetic model theatre with projected images, drawings and props HD video, software and circuitry, electronic components, wood, steel, cardboard, found paper and found objects 300 x 244 x 125 cm
Running time 11 minutes
Video editing and construction Janus Fouché
Software design Janus Fouché
Model theatre design Christoff Wolmarans
Mechanical design Chris-Waldo de Wet
Scenography Sabine Theunissen
Performers Luc De Wit Joanna Dudley Dada Masilo
Kurt Schwitters, Ursonate, performed by William Kentridge
Das gibts nur einmal performed by Zarah Leander
Anton Webern, Stück für Klavier, im Tempo eines Menuetts, performed by Hayk Melikyan
James Kok, Und die ganze Welt spricht von Nanette, performed by James Kok Tanz Orchestra
Arnold Schönberg, Mahnung (Brettl-Lieder), performed by Burcu Kurt (soprano) and Karlheinz Donauer (piano)
Ink is the primary medium of the production. Sometimes, ink drawings translated into woodcuts or linocuts but essentially the vehemence of a black brushstroke trying to find some equivalent visually to the violence of the opera in the marks and the way they are used. It is almost as if ink becomes the black blood that is spilt throughout the production.
The set has to work in two ways. It has to work as the receiver of the projections but it also has to work as a theatrical space of the different rooms: the artist’s studio, the garret in London, the gaming room in Paris, Dr Schön’s house. And so the furniture and the flats and the walls have to both have an Art Deco attention-to-detail and finish in material and also work in a way that they can reflect the projected images.
Lulu is a nasty opera. Each time one hopes for a redemptive moment in one or another character, one’s hopes are dashed. When one thinks that Lulu is finally going to release herself into voluptuous love, she says to Alva, who has declared his love for her as he buries his head in her breasts, “Isn’t this the sofa where your father bled to death?” One of the wonders of the opera is our complicity as audience in Alva’s response: “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, I want to stay in this moment.”
Right Into Her Arms
Kinetic model theatre with projections
Painter: Would you mind just lifting your skirt a little? Lulu: Like this? Painter: If I may… Lulu: Behave yourself! Painter: Let me gently… Lulu: No thank you! Painter: Don’t be so tense. Lulu: Please keep your hands to yourself.