- Barbara Hannigan: Concert Documentaryby Barbara Hannigan, and: Luluby Alban Berg
Known for her vocal prowess and remarkable musicianship, Canadian coloratura soprano Barbara Hannigan demonstrates, in these two DVDs, that she is as comfortable performing Ligeti’s works as Mozart arias, but also just as comfortable conducting an orchestra as she is performing daring renditions of Lulu, on pointe, or Mysteries of the Macabre. The Concert Documentary DVD comes out of the 2014 Lucerne Festival and features the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The program includes: Gioachino Rossini’s Overture to La scala di seta; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Vado, ma dove? O Dei!, Un moto di gioia, and Misera, dove son?; Gabriel Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande, op. 80; and Györgi Ligeti’s Con -cert Românescand Mysteries of the Macabre. The 2014 release of Luluwas filmed during the 19 and 26 October 2012 performances of the opera at La Monnaie in Brussels, under the direction of Krzystof Warlikowski and baton of Paul Daniel, featuring Hannigan in the title role.
Hannigan’s performance of Ligeti’s Mysteries of the Macabreis the highlight of the Concert Documentary DVD. Ligeti’s Mysteries, three arias from his opera Le Grand Macabre(1974–77/96), was prepared for soprano and piano in 1992 by the composer and arranged by Elgar Howarth. Hannigan has made a name for herself with her twist on Mysteries, documented on this DVD by her experience as conductor, vocalist, and actress. The program as a whole highlights Hannigan’s vocal color and agility, but her Ligeti is a “must see” for vocalists or audiences interested in a performance representing the highest understanding of the intimate details of this masterpiece of twentieth-century music. This DVD offers an important look at what it means to be a versatile musician; Hannigan excels in conducting Ligeti’s little-performed Concert Românesc(1951/rev. 1996) along with performing and conducting Fauré, Mozart, and Rossini.
For those who like to “get to know” performing artists, the documentary portion of the DVD, “I’m a creative animal,” provides footage of Hannigan discussing her background; views of her as a working, practicing, and a teaching musician; and scenes from her rehearsals at the 2014 Lucerne Festival as a conductor and as she prepared to perform Unsuk Chin’s “Le Silence des Sirènes” in the same summer. Hannigan’s hunger for new musical experiences and commitment to improving her artistic craft is evident in every scene.
Krzysztof Warlikowski’s 2012 production of Alban Berg’s Lulu, featuring Hannigan as the title character, is provocative and at times, salacious. While all of the lead characters offer remarkable performances of their roles, especially Dietrich Henschel as [End Page 597]Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper and Charles Workman as Alwa, Warlikowski’s production sensationalizes material that is already, by its nature, grotesque and sexy. He chose to infantilize Lulu, making her a victim of circumstances. He draws a literal relationship, on stage, by employing adolescent ballet dancers to represent the adult characters; this at times falls flat, and becomes extraneous stage fodder. Hannigan’s timbre and acting, however, sell the victimized, childlike aspect of Lulu. Her remarkable performance has her singing some of the most difficult vocal lines in Acts 1 and 2 on pointe, or while mimicking sex acts.
The importance Warnikowski places on culturally coded references detracts from the material at hand, and often from the stellar performance by the performers. The use of classical ballet connects Lulu to Odette/Odile of Swan Lakeas well as Darren Arnofsky’s 2010 film Black Swan, associating the downfall of Lulu to the main character in the film, who loses her grip on reality and begins living a nightmare. The second inference (and...