Home Theatre REVIEW: Bluebeard’s Fortress (NZ Opera)

REVIEW: Bluebeard’s Fortress (NZ Opera)

REVIEW: Bluebeard’s Fortress (NZ Opera)


New Zealand Opera and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s manufacturing Bluebeard’s Fortress reimagines Hungarian composer Béla Bartók’s first and solely opera of the identical title in English and in a contemporary, suburban setting. Showing in Aotearoa for a brief season of simply two treasured performances, this brave modern opera beautifully manages juxtapositions of dramatic conventions outdated and new, in a manufacturing that’s each fascinating and accessible.

First carried out in 1918, Bluebeard’s Fortress has its origins in a sinister and bloodthirsty Pandora’s Field type fairytale through which Bluebeard’s younger bride unlocks the one room forbidden to her, discovering the corpses of her new husband’s earlier wives. Bartók and Balázs’ model physicalises themes of curiosity, secrecy, isolation, and concern into seven locked doorways; the hour-long one act opera traverses the conflicts and compromises of the 2 characters as every door reveals essential sides of Bluebeard’s fort and by affiliation, character. Created in 2021 as a co-production between Theatre of Sound (UK) and Opera Ventures (UK) this present interpretation of Bluebeard’s Fortress presents the story as “a love story between a long-married couple residing with dementia”. The ‘doorways’ turn into an prolonged metaphor, the thing of focus a single locked trunk. Grisly and dramatic situations behind locked fort doorways are poignantly changed by on a regular basis household keepsakes – a bridal veil, a baby’s baseball cap, a funeral Order of Service. Discarding the melodrama and investing in realism facilitates very important and speedy connection and empathy from the viewers, as we perceive that abnormal gadgets and actions can carry extraordinary weight. 

Bluebeard’s Fortress staging embraces distinction and marries sudden selections; the presentation of the manufacturing is bold, versatile, and terribly profitable. Evocatively lit and formally dressed, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra are in place earlier than doorways open to the viewers, their numbers spilling past the auditorium’s stage and up into the gallery seating above. Within the conventional type, Concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen enters to viewers applause, adopted by highly-regarded Dutch-Maltese Conductor Lawrence Renes, establishing a tone of solemnity and anticipation. In opposition to this setting, shuffling footsteps, the breaths and efforts of Bluebeard (American dramatic baritone Lester Lynch) are the opening sounds of the opera as he wanders onto to the stage, misplaced in thought. All the motion takes place within the restricted downstage space, a minimal assortment of latest props indicating an abnormal family setting. Costumed in on a regular basis clothes, the 2 leads and 5 silent supporting characters maintain focus flawlessly, regardless of their magnificent orchestral backdrop. Lighting design by Jake Wiltshire masters cohesion and distinction with a set of family lamps, each standing and suspended, supported by bolder washes of color from the auditorium’s lighting. Wiltshire utilises the color symbolism current within the authentic Bluebeard’s Fortress, whereas animating the lamps as a bodily embodiment of the emotional panorama of the story.  

At instances decided, determined, loving, and confused, Bluebeard’s spouse Judith (English dramatic soprano Susan Bullock) pleads together with her husband to unlock the trunk and uncover the treasures, sorrows, and recollections it incorporates, that her thoughts has misplaced reference to. Performers taking part in Judith at totally different levels of her life, and the couple’s two kids, seem as manifestations of reminiscence, silent, acquainted, and unusual. Often the daring dramatic conventions of conventional opera characterisation overshadow the motion naturalism on the coronary heart of Bluebeard’s Fortress, though Bullock and Lynch each reach establishing intimacy and authenticity total. A mirroring motif used to attach Judith together with her numerous selves is worthy of extra exploration and growth, nevertheless, the straightforward and efficient use of props communicates the narrative of the work unfolding earlier than us. As Judith and Bluebeard navigate the results of the trunk’s contents collectively, the richness of the music and dramatic energy and nuance of the artists’ voices draw collectively the manufacturing’s many contrasting sides, delivering a cohesive and vibrant efficiency with absolute depth and integrity.

Because the lighting attracts the efficiency in on itself like a e-book closing, Judith sits alone, silently capturing the isolation of her situation. On the finish of Bluebeard’s Fortress is the longest silence I’ve ever skilled in a theatre, because the work lands with all its devastating energy. Applause is, deservedly, in depth, and really, very heat.

Bluebeard’s Fortress is introduced by NZ Opera and performs Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre tenth August and Christchurch City Corridor 12 August, 2023.

Composer: Béla Bartók 
Librettist: Béla Balázs
Director & Translator: Daisy Evans
Scenic & Costume Designer: Adrian Linford
Lighting Designer: Jake Wiltshire
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra performed by: Lawrence Renes



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