Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Diana R. Hallman


Using Alban Berg’s opera Lulu as a case study, this dissertation explores the fluid nature of cultural artifacts as they are reborn within new socio-cultural contexts. By examining several Lulu productions, this inquiry seeks to understand the changes of meaning that have occurred through the transformation of canonic works in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Central to this project is the shifting nature of the character of Lulu, not only in Berg’s opera, but also in various artistic genres that preceded and affected his own conceptions, as well as her appearances in selected productions.

This study contrasts modern Lulu productions with the composer’s intentions for the opera, using Berg’s operatic text as a basis for comparison. These assessments will be made through a semiotic analysis of various staging elements, musical and textual analysis of archival materials, and consideration of past Lulu scholarship. Relevant features of the political, cultural, and social climate of each production are also be investigated. Two Werktreue productions are examined: the Austrian première of Lulu at the Theatre an der Wien (1962) and the Metropolitan Opera staging by John Dexter (1977). Several Regietheater productions are also studied, including the three-act 1979 première at the Paris Opera—complete with Friedrich Cerha’s third act—as well as stagings at the Glyndebourne Festival, Opernhaus Zürich, the Royal Opera House, the Theater Basel, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Although much scholarship has been written on Lulu, directors have implemented some of the most radical changes to the opera. Building on Lydia Goehr’s definition of the work-concept in The Imaginary Museum of Historical Works, this project examines the role of these radically altered stagings as challenges to the work-concept of Lulu. In order to assess the portrayal of Lulu in the above-listed productions, this dissertation investigates the origins of her character, tracing the genesis of Lulu and the numerous artists who molded her, including Félicien Champsaur, Frank Wedekind, Leopold Jessner, and G. W. Pabst.

Finally, this dissertation considers a work that goes beyond modifications of orchestration, setting, and staging in Regietheater productions. Olga Neuwirth’s opera, American Lulu, represents the ultimate authorial challenge, functioning as both an adaptation of Berg’s text and as a newly composed work. This inquiry explores the transformed mise en scène and re-imagined characters of American Lulu, investigating Neuwirth’s politicized changes and the effect that these alterations have on the story of Lulu. In addition to analyzing her score and libretto, this study examines the performance and depiction of race and sexuality in two American Lulu productions, at the Komische Oper Berlin and the Young Vic in London.

Several Lulu performances discussed in this study explore an area which, even as recently as the publication of Roger Parker’s Remaking the Song, was called “untouched”: the alteration of the operatic text itself. Whether these updated works and radical stagings are considered a passing trend or true innovations, the effect of staging on operagoers is undeniable. Like the shifting interpretations of the iconic character herself, the complex history of Lulu reflects the development of canonic works over time, as they are altered, transformed, and reborn in new environments.

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