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Alban Berg: Lulu

  • Opera in 2 acts (1927-1935)
  • including ‘Variations and Adagio’
  • 3 3 4 3 - 4 3 3 1 - timp, perc(6), hp, pno, alto sax, str, stage music: 2 cl, alto sax, t.sax, 4 jazztpt, 2 jazztbn, sousaphon, jazz drum set, pno, bjo, 3 vln, cb
  • Duration: 120’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute (+picc)
    2nd flute (+picc)
    3rd flute (+picc)
    1st oboe
    2nd oboe
    3rd oboe (+c.a)
    1st clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
    2nd clarinet in Bb (+cl(Eb))
    3rd clarinet in Bb
    bass clarinet in Bb
    alto saxophone in Eb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    3rd bassoon (+cbsn)
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    4th horn in F
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    3rd trumpet in C
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    percussion (6 players)
    violin I
    violin II
    stage music: 1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    alto saxophone in Eb
    tenor saxophone in Bb
    1st jazztrumpet in C
    1st jazztrumpet in Bb
    2nd jazztumpet in C
    2nd jazztrumpet in Bb
    1st jazztrombone
    2nd jazztrombone
    1st violin
    2nd violin
    3rd violin
  • Roles: Lulu / hoher Sopran; Gräfin Geschwitz (II. Akt) / dramatischer Mezzosopran; Eine Theater-Garderobiere (I. Akt) Ein Gymnasiast [Hosenrolle] (II. Akt) / Alt; Der Medizinalrat [Sprechrolle] (I. Akt) / hoher Bass; Der Maler (I. Akt) / lyrischer Tenor; Dr. Schön, Chefredakteur / Heldenbariton; Alwa, Dr. Schön's Sohn, Komponist / jugendlicher Heldentenor; Schigolch, ein Greis / hoher Charakterbass; Ein Tierbändiger (Prolog), Ein Athlet (II. Akt) / Heldenbass mit Buffo-Einschlag; Der Prinz ['ein Afrikareisender'] (I. Akt), Der Kammerdiener (II. Akt) / Tenor-Buffo Der Theaterdirektor (I. Akt) / Bass-Buffo (tief); Ein Clown [stumme Rolle] (Prolog); Ein Bühnenarbeiter [stumme Rolle] (Prolog)
  • Composer: Alban Berg
  • Librettist: Alban Berg
  • Writer of pre-existing text: Frank Wedekind
  • Piano reduction: Erwin Stein
  • Editor: Hans Erich ApostelRudolf Stephan
  • Original language: German
  • Translator: Arthur Jacobs
  • Dedication: Arnold Schönberg zum 60. Geburtstag

Work introduction

Alban Berg died on 24 December 1935, before he could finish his opera Lulu; the orchestration of the third act is incomplete, existing only as a short-score. Of the 1300 bars of this short score (comprising the totality of Act III), 416 are orchestrated by Berg himself; the best part of the remainder consists of instrumental indications, and the music of 88 bars is somewhat uncertain.

Berg wrote his “Symphonic Pieces from the Opera Lulu,” the Lulu Suite, a year before his death, in order to give the eagerly expectant music world an impression of his new creation.

After a long and thorough study of all the related material and similar consideration of the positive and negative aspects involved, Friedrich Cerha decided to make a playable version of Act III. He worked on it from 1962 to 1974 and, after Helene Berg died, he revised it again in 1976 –1977 and 1981 in light of newly accessible sources.

Since comparison of the short score and the full score of the first two acts and the orchestrated parts of Act III shows that there are no significant divergences, Cerha saw no reason why he should not adhere to the layout as it was set down in the short score.

The posthumous premiere of the first two acts took place in Zurich on 2 June 1937, while the first performance of the entire opera was given on 24 February 1979 in Paris. Cerha’s reconstitution of Act III made it possible to choose between the two-act and the three-act versions.

Act III – flexible presentation

A performance in Copenhagen on 15 October 2010 added a third version to the two foregoing ones; Eberhard Kloke (b. 1948) devised a type of “module system” for Act III which gave performers the option of shaping scenes and dramatic developments more freely, with the intention of reducing the act’s duration.

Kloke’s new version of Act III attempts to open up the work; he does not consider the short score as an absolute authority as regards its horizontal course of development. He arrived at some independent solutions of his own in the course of studying the sources and the subsequent editing work. There are several places where he offers ossia variants and options for shortening some passages via vide cuts, based on which of the performers can find their own solutions.

One of the premises on which Kloke’s version devolves is that all the sections Berg orchestrated should remain as they were, using them as the foundation for Act III. His intention in adding new and old parts of Acts I and II, as well as sections of the Symphonic Pieces (which Berg completed after the short score and which of course constitute a kind of further development of material from Act III) was to add coherence and to underline formal interrelations among the three acts.

But Kloke also reverted directly to Cerha’s version since at times it did not seem to make sense to derive alternative solutions to the existing source material.

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Stadttheater Zürich, Zürich (CH)

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