Berg, Lulu, directed by Peter Stein, Opéra de Lyon, 2009
At 71, Peter Stein is still a formidable director of stage action: precise, pertinent, often inspired -- there was not a note of the score that did not have its repercussion on the stage. Stein wanted his Lulu to be like that of the silent film of George Wilhelm Pabst (Loulou, 1929), the angelic face and boyish haircut of the actress Louise Brooks. The seductive costumes of the Roaring 20s (by Moidele Bickel) are equally hymns to the ravaging beauty of Lulu. The same is true of the pompous Art Deco sets by Ferdinand Wögerbauer and the veiled, quasi-mystical lighting by Duane Schuler, which complete this luxurious vision, sometimes at the edge of kitsch. American soprano Laura Aikin possesses the entire arsenal of seduction of the heroine, a femme fatale in the curvaceous body of a teenager. With a mutinous pout and splayed body, long legs and stratospheric top range, she unleashes desire and death with an impudence as palpable as Berg's sensual score, explosive up to the point of Jack the Ripper's knife, who will take credit for the seductress's defeat in a shabby London brothel.We have been following Laura Aikin's successes in Europe, especially in contemporary opera, for several years, and this is only her most recent triumph as Lulu. (Speaking of which, Washington National Opera has yet to mount a production of Lulu, but I suppose that will have to wait for financially more secure times.) This production continues in Lyon through May 2 and will later travel to La Scala in Milan in April 2010 and to the Wiener Festwochen that summer.