West Edge Opera staged the super sexy Euro style opera called ‘Lulu’ written by Alban Berg in the early 1930s in the 1930s abandoned train station at the end of Sixteenth Street near Oakland’s waterfront. The tagging and graffiti on the architectural beauty could not have been more perfect and the antique interior magical. It felt almost New Orleanian in it’s elegance and decadence and decay. The riveting experience was the edgiest, sexiest, most cutting edge opera in recent history in the Bay Area.
Related: ‘Lulu’ part of West Edge Opera festival
Only rising superstar soprano Emma McNairy could be this Lulu because of her stunning beauty and power, exactly what the femme fatale title role demands. The resulting masterpiece by West Edge Opera should define a new style of the art form and a new heroine. West Edge Opera has matured, gotten street wise and become so powerful and sexy the experience is unforgettable. Jonathan Khuner conducted. Elkhanah Pulitzer stage directed. Countess Geschwitz the lesbian lover who takes Lulu’s place in prison was played by Buffy Baggott.
Alas, Alban Berg only wrote two operas and ‘Lulu’ was in progress and near completion when he died in 1935. He wrote the tragic story of a young beauty’s rise from humble circumstances to fame as a singer who married three husbands yet went to prison for killing the third and final one, a socially respectable doctor threatened by her sexuality and her continual guests. Berg made a harsh statement by directing that when Lulu escapes from prison and ends up in poverty and street walking in London’s West End, her three customers are to be played by the same actors who played her three husbands.
Berg had a thing for a sense of things coming full circle musically as well, writing a 12 tone opera which means before any one of 12 notes gets repeated in the score, each of the 12 must be played. Rather than things sounding simplistic or discordant there really is sense of being riveted by the music and being in it’s orderly spell. It seems to feel right.
Another thrilling thing about this performance was that the orchestra plays at the same level as the audience and the musicians and instruments appear clearly visible during intermission. One can get a gander at each shiny beauty from the French horn, trombone, trumpet and mutes, saxophone, bassoon to percussion and flutes, the violin, bass, cello and gorgeous harp. No whimsical harpsicords in this baby, it was total drama and intensity from start to thundering climax with the roar of drums as Lulu the prostitute dies at the hands of Jack the Ripper.
The stage direction was actually rather kind in not showing the death of Lulu although the stabbing of her lesbian Countess friend turned street walker does happen in view. Lulu’s death took place behind a curtain on stage as did that particular sex scene. We should have seen that coming as all the other sex scenes were explicit. Other than that the production contained a lot of debauchery, simulated sex including masterbation; and full frontal and spectacularly beautiful nudity.
Tickets to this festival production cost $80 with a $9 fee. There was ample parking at the train station in a dirt lot with parking attendants; and a security guard sat at the ticket desk out front. The performance came with complimentary wine, beer and bottled water along with vanilla and chocolate biscotti. There was no air conditioning or facilities and the patrons used the many clean porto potties. Patrons came dressed casually and trendy or completely original and artsy.
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For more information: West Edge Opera