Saturday, July 25, 2015

West Edge Opera Lulu: Close to a Sellout

If you haven't got a ticket yet for the West Edge Opera production of Alban Berg's Expressionist masterpiece Lulu, well, I hope you order one right now. For one thing, it is nearly sold out.

For another, it is sensational. WEO was kind enough to invite me to last week's piano dress rehearsal, and what I saw on stage was nothing short of dazzling.

They're staging the opera in the decayed Beaux Arts Wood Street train station in Oakland, abandoned after the 1989 earthquake and now a magnificent wreck.

The beautiful and charismatic Emma McNairy stars as Lulu herself, and sings and acts the hell out of an exceptionally long and difficult role. She sounds and looks great throughout, with the range, volume, and expressiveness a soprano needs for Lulu.

Philip Skinner is Dr. Schoen, and, again, he's great. I'm at the point where his name on the marquee is enough to get me to an opera performance.

Tenor Alex Boyer is a fine, fine Alwa, making his part sound like bel canto.

Buffy Baggott as Countess Geschwitz, bending McNairy over, and in an outfit that makes a nice visual pun and reference to another great version of this story.

Bojan Knezovic as a menacing Schigolch.

The direction, by Elkhanah Pulitzer, is as good as any opera staging I have seen. I liked Jonathan Khuner's lucid conducting, and have great praise and admiration for Andrew Dixon, the rehearsal pianist, who is also in the greatly reduced orchestra for Lulu

As usual, West Edge Opera, working with a tiny budget, has produced a spectacular success. At a time when major figures in the opera world are publicly disparaging seminal musical styles of the 20th c., it's a good thing that small companies such as WEO and Opera Parallele know how to find the audience for the great works written in those styles.

Special thanks to Mark Streshinsky for the invitation and permission to take photos. All photos above are by me. (and there are around 200 more where they came from).


Henry Holland said...

Damn my poverty, I'd love to go to that. I loved the SFO production I went to in 1989, I didn't go to the one in 1998. Not much chance of it being done again any time soon at SFO or ever at LA Opera. The Met is showing their new production in theaters on November 21st, I plan on going.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yeah, I plan to see that too, considering Kentridge, Levine, Met Orchestra. Must put it on the calendar.