Nadja Michael and Mikhail Petrenko
I have finally seen the Bartok Bluebeard's Castle that was paired with Iolanta simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera on Valentine's Day. I didn't feel they made a good pairing and felt I might enjoy Bluebeard by itself. This seems to have been wise. This is my fourth time with this opera since I started blogging (see here, here and here).
This isn't an opera in the traditional sense. The plot is a grown-up fairy tale about a woman who marries a man with a reputation in the neighborhood. The story that is passed around is that he marries and then takes each wife inside his large, dark castle and murders her. It can be played one of two ways: Judith is insatiably curious and can think of no other way to get inside the castle than to marry Bluebeard. Or she is actually in love with him and wishes to triumph over gossip. I've seen it both ways. Here I think we have the second perspective.
Structurally its operatic component exists to provide a program for a wonderful and deeply mysterious tone poem. The characters speak in short sentences. The desire to illustrate the meager plot with beautiful, mysterious or even disturbing illustrations is irresistible.
A few things made this particular production by Polish director Mariusz Trelinski unusual. The singers are genuinely featured instead of being dwarfed by the pictures. The focus is generally on the amazing performance of Nadja Michael as Judith. It is virtually a ballet. Or perhaps something choreographed by Martha Graham. Mikhail Petrenko's Bluebeard is also outstanding.
Usually the opening of the doors is emphasized. We see an actual door and a picture opens up. But here there was no suggestion of actual doors, just atmospheric sets and pictures.
Live women hovered in the background, more than the expected 3, giving the impression that Judith lives on in this mysterious place where it will now be for her a kind of eternal night.
Bluebeard is not reality. Any production will not provide you with a reasonable narrative story. One needs to relax and enjoy it. This version brings together a number of superior elements -- great singing, great conducting and a visually fascinating production.
Conductor Valery Gergiev was just right.