The current production made its debut at The Met just a few weeks ago on November 5th and is the brainchild of South African artist William Kentridge. Mr. Kentridge has interpreted the opera as a German Expressionist extravaganza that works with the atonality of the music and the sordidness of the story. The Art Deco sets are presented against an ever-changing backdrop of black and white projections that alternate between Kentridge's own drawings and headlines from newspapers. The costumes are also avant garde with some characters wearing paper masks, Lulu herself in seductive dress (sometimes made of paper) and a large paper hand that re-appears over and over like the hand of God.
Marlis Petersen as Lulu
The tale of "Lulu" is a complicated one based on lies, lust and longing. It begins in Vienna in the late 19th century with the protagonist, who is married to a doctor, having her portrait painted by an artist who is in love with her. They are briefly interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Schön, a newspaper publisher who has a long history with Lulu, and his son Alwa, a composer who is also in love with her. When the doctor returns and discovers the artist pursuing his wife he suffers a fatal stroke. The artist then marries Lulu and they live in relative comfort, secretly supported by Dr. Schön, until Lulu learns that Dr. Schön is going to marry someone else and becomes distraught. Dr. Schön, longing to finally be free of Lulu's tentacles, exposes their history together to the artist and he kills himself.
Lulu eventually forces Dr. Schön to break off his engagement and marry her and they live unhappily but inevitably together, torturing each other but unable to be apart. Dr. Schön finally can no longer bear the coterie of Lulu's admirers from his own son to the lesbian Countess Geschwitz and gives her a gun to kill herself. Instead she kills him and is taken to prison where she contracts cholera and eventually escapes thanks to an elaborate plan hatched by the Countess and several rather unsavory scoundrels from her past.
Johan Reuter and Marlis Petersen as Dr. Schön and Lulu
The action then moves to Paris where Lulu has fled with Alwa. Their efforts to make a new life are thwarted by characters from her past who threaten to expose her secrets and have her thrown back into jail. Destitute and afraid, the two flee again, this time to London where Lulu is forced to become a prostitute. Her first client is a philosopher, played by her first husband the physician, the next client is an African prince, played by the artist, and the third and ultimate client is Jack the Ripper, played by, you guessed it, Dr. Schön, who kills her.