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TWOJA MUZA (April/May) 2015/English


                                                                            BLUEBEARDS CASTLE

                                                                                                                                              by Charles Kellis


                       POLAND triumphs again! A tribute to the National Opera in Warsaw. This entire new production,
a double bill presenting Jolanta and Bluebearsa Castle, was completely brought over from Poland.  Both operas are attempting to be embraced with a measure of shared identity by the artistic director Mariusz Trelinski. Contrasting in content, yet envisioned with a center of gravity, both are seen attempting to be drawn into mutual psychological interactions. Jolanta brings an enjoyable excursion into fairytale land while B C immerses us into an abyss of dark tortured emotions.

       The story of BC is originally based on the folktale of La Barbe Blue. It has taken on many versions,  including even one by Offenbach but the Bartok version is the one that has mostly survived and is today recognized as the Opera Bluebeard's Castle. Here, we are subjected to similar kinds of prelude projections that in both operas are used to portray the story as a prologue, like a pictorial precursor of what is to come,. These projections initially permeate the atmosphere of both presentations with uprooted trees and psychological imagery----------this time,  laced with scary, ugly depictions of a forest with some equally scary sound effects.

       Tchaikovsky and Bartok bring an engagement in musical contrasts. Whereas Tchaikovsky offers some of his usual conventional melodic arches of smoothly moving musical legato, Bartock, on the other hand, besides some meaningful areas of conventional harmonic structures, introduces various spikes of dissonance, particularly with his "minor seconds" to strongly emphasize the bloody scenes, whenever there appeared evidence of blood.
        The concept of bringing these two operas into a unity of psychological similarities stimulates the imagination. Brilliant and creatively appealing!  Despite, however, all of Trelinski's courageous efforts surrounding this double bill and trying to symbolically tie Jolanta together with Bluebeard's Castle, it still left something to be desired. There was too much manipulation, trying to implement the concept. True, the correlation between Jolanta's desire to see, juxtaposed on Judith's demands to see had a visionary affinity. Trying to make a case, however, embracing the similarity between two despots is a little overboard. Bluebeard was obviously a cruel psychopath trying to escape his past tyranny toward women by embracing it. King Rene, in contrast, was mainly interested in the happiness and well being of his daughter, clearly outlined in the original fairy tale, where he is described as compassionate, trying his best to be a protective and loving father. True, he was a controlling personality. After all he was a King, but introducing an affinity between these two characters betrays the loving integrity of the father. Let's not forget--it is a fairy tale! The shaping of these two operas as though they were a continuation of one white rose in Jolanta to then become bloody in BC is wishful thinking and still does not justify keeping Jolanta in a boxed bedroom. When Ms Netrebko was asked about the symbolism of the white rose, she answered very simply, "a rose is, well,  ---a--rose". That says it all!
            Yes, we understand the creation of an artistic slant, giving us a glimpse into a minimalist Idea of how these two works can be somehow related, but it seemed to be trying too hard. This appeared at the very outset with the isolation of Jolanta in her box, later juxtaposed on Judith's smaller boxes of psychologically, neurotic devotion in B. C. Regardless that the box is an attempt to portray Iolanta's visual isolation instigated by a despotic father, the fairy tale puts her in a beautiful garden. I would have preferred the original atmosphere alive with fresh air, making it even more beautiful and appealing as a dreamy, idyllic fairy tale. Pairing these two diverse productions together could still have been great on their own merits.
              Otherwise, the idea of having such a double bill is wonderful. Instead of the usual complimentary Cav. and Pag, or Gianni Schichi and Suor Angelica why not a worthy innovation. I applaud the directors for their forthright ideas. Why not? The intended concept was splendid.
I can envision taking a painting of let us say, from the Renaissance by Leonardo da Vinci and somehow trying to dissect some similarities from an Impressionist painting by Monet. Although the concept is certainly innovative, this production required too much maneuvering to justify the effort.
        The only two singers, actually singing were: Nadja Michael and Michaił Petrenko.They complimented each other standing erect on the stage. Two beautiful people, showing the mating of an ideally matched couple. Both were perfectly type cast for a wonderful visual effect and both were highly competent in exposing this dark psychological drama, musically enhanced by Bartok.  Their vocal efforts, however, were somewhat marred by inconsistency. The often underpowered efforts by the bass.-as well as some crude?, unnecessary out bursts from the soprano in often trying to just show off her very loud voice was sometimes even annoying. Granted that she is a dramatic soprano, she nevertheless, often sounded as though her mouth was half full of potatoes. Despite their wonderful stage presence and looking like the idyllic Hollywood Movie couple, their voices did not similarly resonate in volume nor was there any kind of real vocal affinity. Fortunately, Bartok, using mostly conventional speech patterns, included only one actual short duet.

        A final salute to all the technical and artistic staff of the Warsaw Wielki National Opera.
The visual film projections were first rate. The final destination of the psychological deviations  leading to the ultimate climax, in anticipation of the 7th door, transported us into the gruesome horrors of Bluebeard's secrets, replete with vivid imagination.
Mariusz Treliński, Boris Kudlicka, Tomasz Wygoda, Marek Adamski and Bartek Macias all contributed to a successful outing at the Metropolitan Opéra. In fact, showing him even more respect and appreciation, Mariuz Trlinski has been further engaged to direct "Tristan and Isolde" at the Met -next September.