From ABBA to "Lulu" -- a Swedish singer's progress

Wed Jun 10, 2009 1:56pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - If someone had told Swedish soprano Agneta Eichenholz she'd make her debut with Britain's Royal Opera singing the lead in Alban Berg's sinister and dark "Lulu," she'd have thought it was a prank.

But that was before her friend, opera director Christof Loy, tapped Eichenholz a year ago to sing one of the most demanding roles in the opera world.

She took a deep breath and signed on to play the femme fatale who is introduced five minutes into the opera as a snake and goes on to destroy almost every man, and even some women, she runs across.

Eichenholz, 38, who has only been singing opera professionally for nine years, and made her mark in Sweden performing in a musical by ABBA founders Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, is on stage almost every minute in "Lulu," which opened on June 4 and runs through June 20.

It is a role which, in Loy's spare staging with only a bit of stage blood and a plexiglass screen as props, Eichenholz says makes her feel "naked," even if she manages to keep her cocktail dress on her slender frame all the way through.

"Actually I feel very naked...even if I'm not. When you don't have any props you just have to go for everything yourself and that's of course hard work but it's so much more interesting when you're not trying to hide from things," she told Reuters in an interview this week after her second performance.

Hide she can't, not from the critics, one of whom said she sang with "bristling, vocal athleticism," another of whom thought she was not really up to the role and was "overparted," nor from Jack the Ripper, who in the misogynistic vision of the Wedekind plays the opera is based on, slits her throat in the end.

The following is an edited version of what else Eichenholz had to say:   Continued...