OP0601. LULU (Berg), recorded 1979, w.Boulez Cond. Paris Opéra Enesmble; Teresa Stratas, Yonne Minton, Hanna Schwarz, Toni Blankenheim, Robert Tear, Franz Mazura, Kenneth Riegel, Jules Bastin, etc. (Germany) 3-DG 415 489, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 244pp. Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 028941548924
“Alban Berg's widow had long resisted anyone completing the last act of what some would consider Berg's masterpiece. For almost 40 years the last act was often performed as a mime to the symphonic fragments composed by Berg before completing the drama for playing abroad, publicising the work. This was because Berg's music at the time was banned by the Nazis in his native Germany.
Without going into extensive detail, this completion by the Austrian conductor and composer, Friedrich Cerha, was a cloak and dagger affair, done between Berg's music publisher and Friedrich Cerha. Berg's widow had written the ban into her will in 1969, and when she died in 1976, this was continued by the Berg foundation which she had set up in 1969. When the completion finally surfaced in 1976, the foundation came to a settlement and thus the completion was allowed to be performed.
The world premiere was entrusted to Pierre Boulez and this recording was made a few months after the triumphant first performances in Paris. Like many premieres which are recorded, there is often a buzz about them, and the present issue is no exception. The cast is a very strong one and the set has been well thought of since its initial release at full price.
Some of DGG Originals releases of opera sets have been criticised for less than complete notes but there are no complaints here. The timing of the work is just a few minutes over what would have been able to be accommodated on a two disc set. DGG have therefore arranged it in the format of one act to a disc, so there are no awkward side breaks. Added to this is a full multi-lingual libretto with copious notes.
The third act completes Alban Berg's inspiration and brings the story of LULU to its proper conclusion instead of the previous ending which left the drama hanging in mid-air. There, we missed Lulu being murdered by Jack the Ripper and Berg's transformation of the heroine from loose woman to blackmail victim. Also her husband earlier in the drama (Dr. Schön) becomes her murderer (Jack the Ripper). Berg's ingenuity of casting the same singer in the two parts, brings a totally different aspect to the drama. In the completed version, Lulu ends up as a truly tragic heroine.
Teresa Stratas fully measures up to this portrayal and is ably supported by the remainder of the cast, Boulez and his orchestra. Her voice is bright and strong and she portrays the character of Lulu very accurately. This is backed up by a very clear, analytical recording, without the dryness of some of the competitive versions. This stands at the head of available versions of LULU.”
- John Phillips
“Teresa Stratas is the most ‘in the moment’ opera singer I have ever seen: no other artist in my experience sang with her passion for truth, her courage and her integrity. Her commitment was unswerving, her instinct impeccable, and her craft - her sheer know-how on a stage - was prodigious. The details of a Stratas performance were indelible; Stratas was the most vulnerable of singers - Nothing stood between Stratas and her music, which she served with extraordinary force.
The first OPERA NEWS interview with Stratas ran in the issue of December 12, 1959, on the occasion of her Texaco broadcast debut, as the actress Poussette in Manon - an event that followed the twenty-one-year-old soprano’s Met debut, in the same role, by less than two months. That interview, by Gerald Fitzgerald, told of her beginnings in Canada….The Met kept Stratas extremely busy - more than a quarter of the 384 performances in her twenty-five-season Met career were sung during her first two seasons with the company, when she was used chiefly in comprimario roles. Her first leading parts at the Met, as Liù (1961) and Mimì (1962), confirmed that Stratas was an artist of rare intelligence and sensitivity, and Met general manager Rudolf Bing gave his rising star increasingly important assignments, among them Sardula in the U.S. premiere of Menotti’s LAST SAVAGE (1964), Lisa in THE QUEEN OF SPADES (1965), the last new production in the Old Met on Thirty-Ninth Street, and Gretel in the first performances of the beloved Merrill-O’Hearn staging of Humperdinck’s opera (1967).
In a 1980 OPERA NEWS interview with Robert Jacobson, Stratas reflected on her responsibility as an artist: ‘I wonder if I have received a gift or a curse. I like to feel it’s a gift and sense the responsibility for it strongly - I feel I was chosen to develop a gift and convey it. If I touch some one person in an evening and enrich them and bring them happiness, then I have accomplished what I was put here to do’. As one who was lucky enough to see Stratas in some of her greatest roles, I will always be grateful to have shared that gift; those moments in the presence of her artistry will be with me forever.”
- F. Paul Driscoll, OPERA NEWS, May 2015