The composer had adapted the German libretto from Erdgeist ('Earth Spirit') and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box) by German playwright Frank Wedekind.
The opera was first performed in its incomplete state by Zürich Opera on 2 June 1937.
Austrian composer and conductor Friedrich Cerha produced a completion of the opera, first performed on 24 February 1979 at Opera Garnier in Paris, conducted by Pierre Boulez. It is Cerha's completion which is usually now performed.
Lulu is notable for being palindromic, both in terms of the music and, to some extent, the plot. It also uses leitmotifs based on Schoenbergian tone rows for each character in the opera, although much of the music is freely composed.
Another notable feature of the opera is a silent film, shown as an interlude in the middle of Act II. The film and its musical accompaniment, also palindromic, are sometimes omitted in modern performances.
Ensemble. Well-deserved Ovations - 'Lulu' lands in Rome after fifty years, by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. A Painterly Production - Alban Berg's 'Lulu', live in high definition from Metropolitan Opera, impresses Maria Nockin
Ensemble. Shimmer, Sizzle and Shock - Roderic Dunnett is enthralled by Alban Berg's 'Lulu', currently on tour with Welsh National Opera
Ensemble. When God and Man Collide - Giuseppe Pennisi visits the Salzburg Festival to investigate 'the downfall of the myth and the spirit of the music'
Ensemble. Seething with Evil - Franz Schreker's 'Die Gezeichneten', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Seldom Performed - 'Lulu' lands at La Scala, by Giuseppe Pennisi
Limitless Combinatorics - Eric Pettine postulates 'No Shortage of Melodies Anytime Soon', and offers some real hope for cynical musicians who think they've heard it all
Ensemble - Naughty but nice. David Thompson enjoys English National Opera's 'Lulu' at the London Coliseum