Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lulu

Went to the Met last night to see Alban Berg's "Lulu," an amazing, amazing work. James Levine, who's conducted all but three of the Met's "Lulus," was unable to conduct this one (back problems) so at the baton was Fabio Luisi, who's just been appointed the Met's first principal guest conductor - a good choice. Marlis Petersen, another lithe German soprano, sang the title part with a kind of detached passion. And the music. Don't know how it does what it does, but do it it does.
It's not a nice story, of course. Lots of people do nasty things to other people, a cavalcade of the betrayals and deaths one expects from opera, but sped up like a farce. (The whole story is framed by a circusmaster introducing a show of wild domestic animals.) As it happens, we just read Kierkegaard's (Constantine Constantius') Repetition in the Job class, and a big chunk of that strange text is an analysis of farce, which has something perhaps of the end run around irony which also defines the religious. I wouldn't say "Lulu" is religious, nor that Mignon/Lulu/Nellie/Eva is a knight of faith (though it might be a fun topic for a late night discussion). But something happens to make the farce of her life achieve (at least in her death) a kind of not quite tragic significance, a teleological suspension of the unethical.

Ich habe nie in der Welt etwas anderes scheinen wollen, als wofür man mich genommen hat. Und man hat mich nie in der Welt für etwas anderes genommen, als was ich bin. [Act 2, Scene 1]

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