Opera Profile: Berg’s Second Masterpiece ‘Lulu’

By David Salazar

“Lulu” was Alban Berg’s second opera.

He worked on it between 1929 and 1935, but unfortunately never completed the work by the time of his death in  1935. The work had a posthumous world premiere on June 2, 1937 and was “completed” over 40 years later in 1979.

Despite never being completed by the composer, the work has become a repertory staple and a vehicle for a number of renowned sopranos.

Brief Plot Summary

It is late-19th-century Vienna and Lulu is married to Dr Goll.

Lulu is having her portrait painted by Walter Schwarz, an artist who is in love with her. The artist makes his move on Lulu, only for the two to be discovered by her husband. However, he endures a fatal stroke and Lulu marries Dr. Ludwig Schwarz, and they appear to prosper with the help of Dr Schön, a widower.

However, Lulu has her eyes on Schön and is disappointed to learn that he is engaged. He later reveals how he has taken her from the street and raised her, but they have been in a relationship. He also reveals that Schigolch, a beggar, is her father.

When Schön reveals Lulu’s past to Schwarz, the latter kills himself. Schön, impulsed Lulu, calls of his engagement and subsequently marries her. However, he is a jealous husband, constantly annoyed by her admiriers, including the Countess Geschwitz and his son Alwa, on whom he eavesdrops. He learns that Lulu poisoned his first wife. Then Schön tries to get Lulu to shoot herself, but she winds up killing him instead.

She is then imprisoned but eventually escapes when she changes places with the Countess. She flees to Paris and then London, where Lulu works as a prostitute. She brings home Jack the Ripper, who murders her.

Watch and Listen

Here is a performance from Salzburg.



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