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Evaluation: “Bluebeard’s Fortress” places fashionable twist on a traditional masterpiece

The story of Bluebeard springs from a French folktale that composer Béla Bartók become a gothic horror opera masterwork. The piece tells of an ominous nobleman who has introduced an ill-at-ease lady named Judith again to his fort. The construction is filled with locked doorways which Judith begs Bluebeard to open, each containing disturbing insights into the fact of the person himself. From behind the ultimate door emerge three ladies, launched as Bluebeard’s earlier wives. They gown Judith in royal clothes and take her away, leaving Bluebeard alone.

The Atlanta Opera provided a decidedly modernized interpretation of Bluebeard’s Fortress on the Bailey Efficiency Middle’s Morgan Live performance Corridor at Kennesaw State College October 7-9. 

Removed from a by-the-numbers recreation of the opera’s most conventional presentation, director Daisy Evans’ exceptional new interpretation noticed the story relocated from the harrowing caverns of a mysterious fort to the intimate confines of a suburban house. The impact was nothing in need of charming.

With its cryptic imagery and inconclusive ending it’s not tough to see why Bluebeard’s Fortress can be a simple alternative for a contemporary reimagining. The idea of reinterpreting traditional stage works in a contemporary setting definitely isn’t new — filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 gangland reimagining of Romeo and Juliet and the 2007 Patrick Stewart-helmed efficiency of Macbeth are outstanding examples. 

The success of the trouble normally hinges on the capability of the brand new interpretation to make the supply materials related in a contemporary context. Director Daisy Evans, in shut collaboration with conductor Stephen Higgins, has delivered a startlingly daring and totally charming new idea within the already surrealistic world of Bluebeard.

Evans’ model reimagines Bluebeard (Michael Mayes) and Judith (Susan Bullock) as an aged married couple returning house to a comfy (although seemingly Dada impressed) suburban front room. The haunting locked rooms are consolidated into memorabilia and household heirlooms lifted from a single leather-based journey trunk that looms massive on the stage. 

Behind the hidden doorways on this modernized model, are reminders of Judith’s previous.

Removed from being the horrific trappings that reveal Bluebeard to be an influence mad warlord, these relics are supposed to assist the modernized Judith bear in mind her previous as she confronts dementia. The three earlier wives of Bluebeard are reimagined as earlier incarnations of Judith (right here performed by Eva Lukkonen, Marissa Romanoff and Mary Beth Morrison) and they’re joined in numerous flashback sequences by the couple’s two kids, a son performed by Coleman Hand and a daughter performed by Thainara Carvalho.

Regardless of being carried out in English, this new interpretation is a one-to-one translation of the unique Hungarian and retains the entire violent, foreboding imagery of the unique. Remarkably, this does little to distract from the newly imagined deal with Judith’s dementia, as an alternative serving as metaphorical language for her burgeoning realization that Bluebeard’s presentation of household heirlooms might awaken darker and extra heartbreaking recollections from the annals of their marriage. 

In the long run Judith and Bluebeard stay as tormented and conflicted as ever. However the crafty use of recent imagery brings that sinister battle into an entire new realm of up to date relevance.

From a musical standpoint Mayes and Bullock each deserve high honors. Whereas Bluebeard’s Fortress lacks the extensive ranging vocal virtuosity of extra bombastic works, it’s nonetheless an endurance match for the 2 leads who ship the whole lot of the sung materials with out relaxation for over an hour. 

The outcome was a efficiency that leaned closely on measured restraint and an nearly conversational vocal supply that opened as much as embrace bigger dynamics solely on the most crucial of moments. That focus to subtlety additionally served to emphasise the newly emergent sentimental facet of this distinctive manufacturing.

For all of the night’s adventurous experimentation, it was the refined background presence of the instrumental ensemble that was maybe essentially the most daring. The unique Bluebeard’s Fortress requires a 75-piece orchestra, which might have undercut the efficiency’s intimate nature and been a logistical impossibility for the venue. 

Higgins was tasked with pairing down the huge orchestra to a mere seven-piece ensemble. His minimalist association complemented the efficiency’s understated environment nicely. It was commendable for its capability to by no means dominate the motion however reasonably pulsate gently within the background in a fashion akin to the tense, ever current scores of classic black and white horror movies. 

That delicate however omnipresent pulse was complemented by interwoven and incessantly dissonant phrases dealt with predominantly by clarinetist David Odom.

At a short talkback session after the efficiency, Mayes (joined by Bullock, Evans and Higgins) mentioned his imaginative and prescient for “opera with a conscience,” the observe of creating opera related to up to date societal issues. In tying Bluebeard’s Fortress into the more and more urgent matter of dementia, Mayes and firm undoubtedly succeeded on that entrance.


Jordan Owen started writing about music professionally on the age of 16 in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2006 graduate of the Berklee School of Music, he’s an expert guitarist, bandleader and composer. He’s presently the lead guitarist for the jazz group Different Strangers, the ability steel band Axis of Empires and the melodic loss of life/thrash steel band Century Spawn.



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