Let's hear the good news first, shall we?  The performances were very strong.  Marlis Petersen is the Lulu of the moment, and it's not hard to see why: she sings it gloriously and really goes out there with her performance.  Mezzo Susan Graham sang the role of the Countess Geschwitz for the first time, she was lovely.  Tenor Daniel Brenna made his Met debut as Alwa, he has a nice strong voice and is cute in a plump way.  Johan Reuter played Alwa's father, Dr. Schoen, he was fantastic, what a voice.

 

The conductor was Lothar Koenigs, a late-in-the-day replacement for James Levine.  Levine decided he wasn't up for conducting both this and *Tannhaueser*, and he chose *Tannhaueser*.  Jimmy, time to RETIRE!  Or at least cut back.  The orchestra generally sounded great, the strings in particular supplying the plush sound needed in the moments of lyricism.  But many solo lines from the winds sounded badly coordinated.  One solo line from the trumpet was particularly wonky: it sounded like he was playing in the middle of a cornfield.

 

So here's the thrust of the problem with the production: an opera production should clarify and enhance the drama, it should not distract or obscure it.  Much of what Kentridge did got in the way, and really, the first job of the director is to not get in the way.  Things started very promising, with a moment of racy wit in the prologue: the projection showed a sloppyish drawing of Lulu.  Then it was animated so it appeared that the paper on which it was drawn flapped open and fluttered to reveal a naked Lulu.  And the singer, downstage, raised his hand and tickled her cooter as it wiggled back and forth.  Titters all around.  There was not one more witty moment like that in the show.  Hours of projections and none of it pertinent or illuminating.  He should have confined the projections to the interludes between scenes, or important moments within scenes.

 

It's not fair to compare a production to a previous production, but everything we see is informed by what we've seen before, so too damn bad.  The first production I saw was at Glyndebourne in 1996 was the greatest: directed by Graham Vick, it was imaginative and revelatory.  I saw the Met's previous production was by John Dexter, from 1977 (and 1980 for the full three-act version).  It was staged like a Belle Epoque Feydeau farce, it heightened the naughtiness and buoyancy and cleared a place for the crushing drama of the last act.  I think Kentridge has a few things to learn before he directs another show.

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