Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bloody opera 'Lulu' to make debut in Korea

A graphic illustration of the atmospheric set design for the Korea National Opera's rendition of "Lulu."

By Lee Hyo-won

She seduces, she kills and ends up becoming a prostitute before being murdered by Jack the Ripper. It’s bloody and brutal, and harrowingly so — it’s none other than Alan Berg’s opera about a murderous femme fatale, “Lulu,” which will see its Korean premiere Thursday at Seoul Arts Center.

The opera is based on two of Frank Wedekind’s turn of the 20th-century plays, “Earth Spirit” and “Pandora’s Box,” for which the German dramatist was sued for obscenity. Decades have passed since “Lulu’s” 1937 premiere, but the Korea National Opera (KNO) still expects the piece to stir up the audience.

“We’re finally able to present the opera in Korea. Until now it was impossible because there was no soprano capable of pulling off the role of Lulu, and it was too difficult to musically express the characters in an organic way,” Lee So-young, director of KNO, told reporters last week in Seoul.

The opera is about the young, beautiful Lulu’s rise up the social ladder by marrying — and killing — one man after another (her string of bloody ties even includes a lesbian affair). She is eventually caught red-handed, but manages to avoid imprisonment and is forced to prostitute herself until an untimely encounter with Jack the Ripper.

“It’s an opera that stirred things up by featuring hushed events that could occur during a time when society was dominated by men,” said soprano Park Eun-joo, who will play the title role.

Depicting fateful sexual desires that characters feel toward the protagonist, and which ultimately lead to their demise, the Faustian opera criticizes early 20th-century European society’s hypocritical resentment of sex. The Guardian called the opera “the 20th century’s greatest opera.”

“Goethe once said that a child inherits roots and wings from his/her parents. Lulu, an orphan, has no roots, and even her wings become destroyed throughout the course of the story. Berg expressed this through a 12-tone system,” Kristina Wuss, director of the upcoming rendition, said.

In addition to the extremely fast tempo music, the audience can look forward to a unique set design. “The characters are like planets orbiting Lulu, who is like the sun. To express this we will be using a revolving stage with a tree in the middle,” said Wuss.
Frank Cramer will conduct Ensemble TIMF.

The opera runs through Sunday. Tickets cost from 10,000 to 150,000 won. Call (02) 586-5282.

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