Bluebeard’s Castle

Bartók’s opera as a #MeToo thriller
Opera Australia
by
ABR Arts 03 March 2021

Bluebeard’s Castle

Bartók’s opera as a #MeToo thriller
Opera Australia
by
ABR Arts 03 March 2021

Béla Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle was premièred amid the chaotic, final months of the Great War. Its lugubrious symphonic mood, grim libretto, and static set gained respect rather than favour from its first anxious audience. A century on, now freed from the shackles of copyright (Bartók died in 1945), the opera invites new approaches, arrangements, and settings. There is even now an annual Hungarian opera festival, where the Duke and his latest wife are presented everywhere from night bars to spa baths.

From the New Issue

Comments (2)

  • I have read your review of Bluebeard’s Castle. I’m not as positive, I’m afraid. I certainly enjoyed the singing, but I found the production not only distractingly ‘busy’ and also at odds with the ‘inner’ sense of the text. It seemed to me that the director lacked confidence in the piece and couldn’t resist adding gratuitous ‘action’, little of which (to me anyway) contributed very much to the dramatic content. I was also unhappy with the small-scale sound which the orchestra achieved. As you know, Bartók wrote for an orchestra of Straussian scale – for quadruple winds in the ‘Fifth Door’ scene, for example. I thought that the orchestra played in ‘black and white’, whereas real colour is called for. And mention of colour prompts me to ask if you weren’t concerned that the lighting ignored the composer’s specifications in the score. My worry, I must say, is that those audience members who hadn’t heard the piece previously could scarcely understand why many of us regard it as such a great piece.
    Posted by John Carmody
    19 March 2021
  • Thank you for this thoughtful and nuanced commentary, Malcolm. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, your knowledgeable misgivings aside, and that the production seems to have hit home with its aims while remaining mostly true to the music. It’s all we have to go on after all.
    Posted by Andy Morton
    03 March 2021

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