Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Non-review: American Lulu

I would have probably not classified this as a review anyway, as I know far too little about opera to pass comment on it on my very rare ventures. But it's even more so the case for American Lulu, Olga Neuwirth's adaptation of Alban Berg's opera, itself based on Frank Wedekind's plays. The trouble is I don't know the latter, so I didn't have foreknowledge of the story, and I'm not much better informed of it now. It's about a... prostitute? Maybe? I can't say I noticed her specifically having sex for money, but she does seem to have a pimp, so maybe she's a prostitute. Or she could have been the Duchess of Argyle. In any case lots of men fancy her, and continue to pursue her despite the fact that most of them seem to end up dead. She also confesses to poisoning someone's mother, which was the first I knew that he had a mother, let alone that she'd been poisoned. On reflection, I'm fairly sure she isn't the Duchess of Argyle.

The problem is that, though sung in English, it's not sung very clearly, and I caught about half of the words at best. The Young Vic are obviously aware of this and have provided surtitles. Unfortunately from the cheap slips where I was sitting these weren't visible, so I remained none the wiser.

The surtitles should have been clearly visible from the stalls, but I'm not sure this particularly added to their enjoyment, given the stampede for the exits every time the lights dimmed for a scene change. The discordant musical style really wasn't to my taste, and others will have to comment on the cast's voices because all I know about opera singing is that it's loud without microphones, and they did that. One of the characters seemed to be modeled on Rolf Harris, which is a bit unfortunate timing. Another of Lulu's lovers is an American Football player. I could tell because he wore his full kit complete with shoulder pads and helmet at all times. I think that's the appeal of opera: The subtlety.

And she didn't even sing "Relight My Fire!"

American Lulu by Alban Berg, adapted by Olga Neuwirth, is booking until the 24th of September at the Young Vic.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes straight through.


  1. Nick I am an opera addict and even I didn't book for this after all the terrible reviews! Go and see a proper opera e.g. a cheap slip for Carmen at ROH is well worth it, and its on in December

    1. I think I'll be sticking to my usual pattern of steering clear for a couple of years after this.