Lulu (opera)

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Work data
Original title: Lulu
Original language: German
Music: Alban Berg
Libretto : Alban Berg after Frank Wedekind
Literary source: Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box by Frank Wedekind
Premiere: June 2, 1937 (fragment),
February 24, 1979 (version of the 3rd act by Friedrich Cerha )
Place of premiere: City Theater , Zurich (1937)
Opéra Garnier , Paris (1979)
Playing time: about 3 hours
  • Lulu ( soprano )
  • Countess Geschwitz ( mezzo-soprano )
  • Cloakroom / a high school student / a groom ( old )
  • The Medical Council (speaking role)
  • The banker ( bass )
  • The professor ( silent role )
  • The painter / a negro ( tenor )
  • Dr. Schön / Jack the Ripper ( baritone )
  • Alwa, Dr. Schön's son (tenor)
  • Schigolch, an old man (bass)
  • An animal tamer / an athlete (bass)
  • The prince / valet / marquis (tenor)
  • The theater director (bass)
  • A clown (silent role)
  • A stage worker (silent role)
  • The police commissioner ( speaking role )
  • A fifteen year old (soprano)
  • Your mother (old)
  • A craftswoman (mezzo-soprano)
  • A journalist (baritone)
  • A servant (baritone)

After Wozzeck, Lulu is the second opera by the Austrian composer Alban Berg , although the third act remains unfinished . The fragment was premiered posthumously on June 2, 1937 at the Zurich Opera House . The first performance in Germany was directed by Gustav König in Essen in 1953 . There is a completion of the opera by Friedrich Cerha , which premiered on February 24, 1979 at the Paris Opera under the musical direction of Pierre Boulez .

The figure of Lulu is at the center of the two tragedies Erdgeist and Pandora's Box by Frank Wedekind , which Berg reworked into three acts, leaving the author's wording almost unchanged. Wedekind describes the social rise of a young woman, up to the murder of the one she loved most, and then her fall, until she finally ends up as a prostitute and is murdered by her last lover. The person constellation in the opera is symmetrical. On the first three lovers and husbands - the doctor, the painter and Dr. Schön - followed by three customers - the professor (≈ doctor), the negro (≈ painter) and, as the last customer, Jack the Ripper (≈ Dr. Schön). In Lulu's environment, the men suffer and die, as do a lesbian countess who succumbs to her charm and even goes to hospital for her and fetches her illness and is ultimately also murdered by Lulu's murderer.



An animal tamer introduces his menagerie to the audience. Finally, he leads a snake onto the stage: it is Lulu, the “original figure of woman”, “created to incite mischief, to lure, to seduce, to poison and to murder - without anyone noticing”.

first act

First Scene

Lulu is with Medical Councilor Dr. Goll married, but also has a relationship with the editor-in-chief Dr. Nice. When she has a portrait painted of herself, the painter succumbs to her charms and harasses her. At that moment, Lulu's husband arrives and dies of a heart attack from excitement.

Second scene

Lulu is married to the painter who was created by Dr. Schön's protection has come to success and money. Lulu receives a visit from the aged Schigolch, who is mysteriously connected to her past. Then comes Dr. Nice to explain to Lulu that he would like to marry honorably and to evade her charms in the future. When the painter learned in this way that Lulu was Dr. Schön's lover is, he commits suicide.

Third scene

Lulu works on the mediation of Dr. Nice as a dancer in a theater ballet. When she was Dr. Beautifully discovered in the audience with his fiancée, she refuses to perform. Only after Dr. If he writes a humiliating letter in her dressing room with which he dissolves his engagement, she is ready to continue the performance.

Second act

First Scene

Dr. Schön is now married to Lulu. When he came home one day and found her in the company of her admirers, he was mad with jealousy and asked her to commit suicide with a revolver (Lulu's song: “If people killed themselves for my sake, then mine Value not down ” ). However, she shoots him and is then arrested.

Second scene

A few months later, Lulu's friends manage to use a trick to help her escape from prison, but they play off each other in the process. Eventually Lulu flees with Alwa, the son of Dr. Nice, across the border.

Third act

First Scene

Lulu and Alwa receive guests in their home in Paris, but the evening party is not clear, because Lulu is blackmailed because she is still wanted as a murderer in Germany. Lulu and Alwa use confusion over a sudden fall in stock prices to flee across the border again.

Second scene

Lulu lives with Alwa and Schigolch in great poverty in London. She occasionally works as a prostitute to earn money. One of her customers murders Alwa. Another is Jack the Ripper , who first kills Lulu and then Countess Geschwitz, her lesbian friend.


Permutations of the Lulu basic sequence

The opera is musically based on a twelve-tone row (Lulu row = basic row), from which further rows are derived through permutation with various numerical selection modes, which are assigned to certain people according to leitmotifs .

However, it is controversial whether the entire opera can be traced back to the one Lulu series. For the viewer and listener, "the construction of the music [...] always takes a back seat to the atmospheric effect" and the richness of the timbre of the score.

Lulu palindrome: mirror point

For the turning point of the opera between the two scenes of the second act, Berg provides for a silent film that shows what happened in the meantime (with Lulu's arrival in and her liberation from prison). A music of transformation is played, which is composed as a palindrome in order to musically clarify the mirror-image structure of the plot (Lulu's ascent and descent).


Alban Berg had got to know the play The Pandora's Box , which was banned by the censors at the time, in a closed performance that Karl Kraus had put on on May 29, 1905 in the Trianon Theater in Vienna . From 1928 he worked intermittently on the setting of the Lulu tragedy. In the spring of 1934 the composition in the short score was largely completed, and Berg worked on individual parts of his opera sketch as a concertante Lulu Suite ("Lulu Symphony") . In 1935, under the impression of the death of Manon Gropius , Berg interrupted the work again to compose his violin concerto in her memory . He made rapid progress with this work, but shortly after it was completed he fell ill with blood poisoning , of the consequences of which he died on December 24, 1935, without being able to resume work on Lulu .

At this point in time, the first and second acts of the opera were available as a fully orchestrated score . The first 268 bars of the 3rd act, whose short score comprises 1326 bars , are orchestrated, as well as the end of the act and the last two movements of the Lulu Suite , taken from the 3rd act, a total of 390 bars.

Alban Berg's widow Helene first tried to get Arnold Schönberg , Anton Webern and Alexander von Zemlinsky to complete the work, but they all had to cancel due to lack of time. For this reason, the opera was premiered as a fragment on June 2, 1937 at the Zurich Opera House : the first two acts were followed by a pantomime to the music of the two movements of the Lulu Suite . The premiere was a great success, and Helene Berg concluded that the opera could also be performed as a torso. As a result, she subsequently refused all attempts to have the opera completed by a third hand.

The Austrian composer Friedrich Cerha had gained insight into the sources of the opera in the 1960s and worked on an instrumentation of the third act without Helene Berg's knowledge. However, it was not until after Helene Berg's death in 1976 that the legal hurdles were overcome, and so the work arrived on February 24, 1979 in a production by the " Jahrhundertring " team Pierre Boulez (conductor), Patrice Chéreau (director), Richard Peduzzi ( Stage design) and Jacques Schmidt (costumes) at the Paris Opéra Garnier for the premiere.

In 2007/2008, the conductor Eberhard Kloke developed another new version, which was premiered on October 15, 2010 in Copenhagen . This version is a co-production with the Oslo Opera House , where the piece premiered on February 16, 2011, and with the Dresden Semperoper, where the premiere took place on February 4, 2012. A version for solos and chamber orchestra of the opera, further revised by Eberhard Kloke, with a new conception of the 3rd act, also enables a performance on smaller stages. The premiere of this version took place on May 12, 2012 in the Stadttheater Gießen .


  • Ingo Müller: Lulu. Literature processing and opera dramaturgy: A comparative analysis of Frank Wedekind's Lulu dramas and Alban Berg's opera Lulu in the light of reflections on genre theory (= Rombach Sciences: Litterae series, vol. 177), Freiburg i. Br. 2010.
  • Cordula Knaus: Tamed Lulu: Alban Berg's Wedekind setting in the field of tension between literary ambition, opera convention and “absolute music” (= Rombach Sciences: Series Cultura, vol. 38), Freiburg i. Br. 2004.
  • Ingo Müller: Influences of cinematography on the dramaturgy of Alban Berg's Lulu , in: Aspects of modern music theater in the Weimar Republic, ed. by Nils Grosch, Münster 2004, pp. 335–369.
  • Albrecht von Massow : Halbwelt, Kultur und Natur in Alban Berg's "Lulu" (= archive for musicology . Supplement 33). Stuttgart 1992.
  • Attila Csampai : Alban Berg, Lulu: texts, materials, comments . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1985, ISBN 3-499-17340-9 .
  • Rudolf Kloiber , Wulf Konold , Robert Maschka: Handbook of the Opera. New edition. 11th, revised edition. Bärenreiter / dtv, Kassel et al. / Munich 2006, ISBN 3-423-34132-7 .
  • Werner König: Lulu and the death tone of their victims. Reinhold Hammerstein on his 85th birthday. In: Archive for Musicology, 58th year 2001, issue 1.
  • Werner König: Studies for Alban Berg's opera “Lulu” . Schneider, Tutzing 2008, ISBN 978-3-7952-1251-3 .
  • Dieter Zöchling: The chronicle of the opera. Chronik Verlag, Dortmund 1990, ISBN 3-86047-129-5 .
  • Supplement to the LP cassette Alban Berg: Lulu , conductor: Pierre Boulez, Deutsche Grammophon 2740 213 (1979). With essays by Pierre Boulez, Friedrich Cerha, Patrice Chéreau and Douglas Jarman.
  • Program for the performance of the Frankfurt Opera, Frankfurt am Main 2003
  • Alban Berg's “Lulu”. Source studies and contributions to the analysis by Thomas F. Ertelt . Vienna: Universal Edition, 1993. 220 pp.

Musical cross-references

Web links

Commons : Lulu  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Several music samples and audio files at
    Commons : Lulu (opera)  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  2. Horst Weber: Article Permutation , in: The great Lexicon of Music , edited by Marc Honnegger and Günter Massenkeil , Herder Verlag Freiburg / Brsg. 1978/1987, Volume 6, ISBN 3-451-20948-9 , p. 243
  3. Jesper Klein: Last customer: Jack the Ripper (About the Lulu production Leipzig 2018) in the FAZ (accessed on March 4, 2020)
  4. more precisely: as a double palindrome, s. the animated (ongoing) score for the music on YouTube (accessed March 7, 2020)
  5. Alban Berg - Lulu. The revised third act on the Universal Edition website , accessed March 7, 2020.
  6. ^ Lulu on the website of the Oslo Opera House ( memento of December 24, 2010 in the Internet Archive ).
  7. LULU (WP) at the Stadttheater Gießen ( Memento from December 10, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  8. About the first 4 notes by Lulu on the website of the composer Moritz Eggert, accessed on December 10, 2014.
  9. Lulu Lou Reed & Metallica on , accessed December 10, 2014.