Shades of light, darkness in Met Opera’s ‘Iolanta,’ ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’
Special to the Daily
If you go
What: Tschaikovsky’s “Iolanta” and Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle,” part of the 2014-15 “Met Opera: Live in HD” broadcast season
Where: The Finkel Auditorium at the Colorado Mountain College Breckenridge campus, 107 Denison Placer Ave., Breckenridge
When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 14
Cost: $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and Met Members and $10 for students and children
More information: Light snacks and beverages will be provided during intermission, donation requested. For ticket information and purchase, call the National Repertory Orchestra Office at (970) 453-5825. Ticket purchase may also be made online by visiting the NRO website at http://www.nromusic.com.
Tschaikovsky’s enchanting fairy tale “Iolanta” and Bartok’s psychological thriller “Bluebeard’s Castle” make up the Metropolitan Opera’s intriguing double bill for its next high-definition broadcast, to be shown at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge on Saturday, Feb. 14, beginning at 10:30 a.m.
Of particular attraction is the voice and acting of soprano Anna Netrebko, who stars as the beautiful, winsome princess, Iolanta. Born blind and forced by her protective father, King René (Ilya Bannik), to live a secluded life, she had been raised much as a doll under the care of simple housemaids who never mentioned that there is such a thing as sight. We next follow Iolanta on her journey from the darkness of sightlessness into the light of experiencing love for the first time.
In time, Iolanta catches the attention of the Burgundian knight Count Vaudémont (Polish tenor Piotr Beczala), who becomes enthralled by her beauty. As a fairy tale would have it, Vaudémont discovers that Iolanta is blind. How? Observing a bouquet of flowers, he asks her twice to give him a red rose, receiving only white roses in return. With this revelation, he vows to help Iolanta gain her eyesight, following the counsel of his Moorish doctor friend that “no disease can be cured without inner desire.” Rene is furious with Vaudémont for his disclosing the secret of Iolanta’s blindness. Upon learning of Vaudémont’s cure, the King, in rebuttal, indicates imposition of a death sentence if sight does not return.
By magic, Iolanta regains her eyesight and her father consents for her marriage to Vaudémont. The opera ends with a melodious duet between the two new lovers and a glorious choral ensemble at the closing wedding ceremony.
In contrast, Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” begins in the light and ends in darkness. This grim, two-character opera was drawn from a blood-streaked fairy tale. The opera begins as Bluebeard (Russian bass Mikhail Petrenko), who with reticence, allows his new wife Judith (German soprano Nadja Michael) to enter his mysterious and dreadful home castle. They enter a large room, adorned with seven closed doors. Judith requests that the doors be opened so she can learn more of the past history of her new husband. Bluebeard, with reticence, agrees to open the first five doors, indicating that the last two are not to be opened.
Not having attended this opera before, it will be interesting to see how choreography, produced by the innovative Polish director Mariusz Trelinski in his Met debut, portrays the lighting effects described in recent reviews as being “haunting metaphorical imagery” in portraying the contents, in turn, of the seven rooms. The first room is a torture chamber, the second an armory. Each fills Judith with terror as she sees blood stained on the weapons. The next doors conceal a treasury and a garden. Then Bluebeard shows to Judith a view of his vast empire from the fifth room, with its sense of brightness.
Even though Bluebeard pleads, “love me” and “ask no questions,” Judith demands that the remaining two doors be opened. The sixth door conceals what is described as a silent, silvery lake, for Judith representing “a lake of tears,” shed from the eyes of Bluebeard’s previous wives. Now at the end of perseverance, Judith is led into the seventh room where Bluebeard’s previous wives are concealed. The opera ends as Bluebeard adorns Judith with jewelry in keeping with that of his previous wives. Judith now joins them as part of Bluebeard’s space forever. The opera ends as Bluebeard closes the seventh door behind him.
In a recent New York Times review, the orchestral music provided by conductor Valery Gergiev for Iolanta is described as being “wistful, tremulous and full of yearning” and, for Bartok’s score, emphasizing the sound of overwhelming passages with “expressionist angst and Debussy-like lushness.” These opera productions promise to be absorbing experiences, both musically and psychologically.
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