Tag Archives: Olivier Py


This is the first of a two-part series on adaptions of Alban Berg’s controversial operas.

Be forewarned: After watching these two productions of Alban Berg’s operas “Lulu” and “Wozzeck,” showering may be advisable.

Alban Berg (1885-1934) may be the most notorious member of the Second Viennese School, even more so than leader Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) and Anton Webern (1883-1945). Schoenberg invented the twelve-tone language and is considered the boogeyman of the musical avant-garde. Webern, who composed mainly in miniature, is, possibly, the most influential of the three. Berg, on the hand, was the most romantic of the school, as influenced by Gustav Mahler as Schoenberg. Berg died young and did not live long enough to compose a large a body of work. However, he did compose what may very well be the two most repulsive operas ever written. Even Schoenberg was aghast, and urged his younger colleague to discontinue writing such filth. A premature death stopped Berg from finishing his final opera, “Lulu.” He completed two of the three acts, and the final act was completed in the short “particell” format. Some forty years later, Friedrich Cerha completed the orchestration for the third act, which premiered under the direction of Pierre Boulez. Both “Wozzeck” and “Lulu” are extreme operas from an extreme composer. One would think that this fact would make opera fans receptive to interpretive stagings.

Olivier Py and Calixto Bieito are two of the most notorious enfant terrible stage directors working in European opera today.  In 2005, Py presented a pornographic actor on stage, in full erection, for a staging of Wagner’s “Tannhauser.”  Bieito’s staging of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio” incorporated S &M and drug addiction (the story is set in a bordello), and his “Don Giovanni” explored similar themes.  In 2007 Bieito turned to adapting Berg, first with his controversial “Wozzeck,” then with an equally provocative “Lulu” in 2009.

Excerpt from Py’s stage production of Lulu

In November of 2011, Py’s filmed version of Lulu was released on home video, and it too provoked outrage among the traditionalists. American Opera fans are among the most fanatically puritanical in the world. Py and Bieito, while creating mixed reactions in Europe, are Continue reading THE UNCOMPROMISING ALBAN BERG: OLIVIER PY’S LULU (2011)