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Will Lulu Do a Karenina at West Edge Opera?

Janos Gereben on April 8, 2015

West Edge Opera
Emma McNairy will star in Lulu at West Edge Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver
lives up to its slogan, "Remarkable Operas, Unexpected Places," by producing Alban Berg's Lulu in Oakland's abandoned 16th Street train station.

As the old Central Station stopped serving trains two decades ago, the Anna Karenina association is not realistic, but it still makes an inviting headline. The station's Beaux-Arts buildings have been used in several films in recent years, including Funny Lady and RENT.

Lulu, with Emma McNairy in the title role, Philip Skinner as Dr. Schoen, and Buffy Baggott as Countess Geschwitz, is performed July 25, Aug. 2 and 8. Jonathan Khuner conducts, Elkhanah Pulitzer is the stage director.

West Edge Opera's summer festival also offers Laura Kaminsky's As One, at the Oakland Metro, July 26, 31, and Aug. 8; and Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland, conducted by Gilbert Martinez, and staged by company director Mark Streshinsky, on Aug. 1, 7, and 9.

Khuner told Classical Voice about the West Edge Lulu:

Our fully staged production will take as its musical starting point the chamber orchestration (very recently published by Schott) of Eberhard Kloke. Besides being a re-orchestration, this version handles the problematic Act 3 (left incomplete by Berg) in a different way than the usually performed version of Friedrich Cerha.

We will make quite a few cuts, and will structure our evening in two halves, rather than retaining Berg's three-act division. Our cast will be smaller, leaving out some of the characters from the larger ensembles, and allowing further trimming, so that we anticipate a performance of total duration under three hours, rather than the usual three and three quarters hours. The aim is to retain all the musical power and dramatic sweep of the original, within a streamlined and more focused shape.” – Jonathan Khuner, WEO music director.

We'll be performing in the original German, with English supertitles, and among the objects of our pruning hooks will be the frequent spoken dialog sections, all of which will be condensed considerably.

The aim is to retain all the musical power and dramatic sweep of the original, within a streamlined and more focused shape. The chamber orchestration manages to preserve a great percentage of Berg's lurid colorations, but as usual we hope for increased transparency and improved balance (vis-a-vis the voices) from the smaller pit forces.