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Naughty but nice

English National Opera's 'Lulu'
at the London Coliseum


This new production of Lulu must surely be counted as one of the most outstanding achievements in the history of the ENO, fully worthy to rank alongside such notable enterprises as the Goodall Ring. Given some disastrous recent productions of standard operatic repertoire by the house, I approached the Lulu experience with some apprehension, since it is a far-from-conventional opera in the first place, but the result is a triumph in all departments.

Read out of context, in the cold light of day, the scenario of Lulu is likely to induce a mixture of incredulity, sheer loathing, and compensating amusement. The anti-heroine is, by turns, showgirl, bohemian, society tart, and lesbian lover. She meets her end in London, butchered by Jack the Ripper. Given all this, set to an atonal score, the opera hardly carries the promise of a fun-filled night out!

Lisa Saffer in the title role of the ENO 2002 production of Berg's 'Lulu'. Photo: Neil Libbert

But that is to reckon without Berg's genius, and a perceptive production and ideal cast. Lulu, in this splendid realisation, most assuredly is a fun night out. At the most superficial level, it is richly entertaining and hugely enjoyable, and the music is simply ravishing, gripping the listener from its first bars to the end of a long evening. But the total experience is much, much more than that.

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Copyright © 6 June 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK





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