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12 Oct 2017

Why you can't miss Bluebeard's Castle

With thrilling music and a gory tale, Bluebeard’s Castle will have you on the edge of your seat!

A quick question before we start, which of these statements best describes you?

1. I’ve never been to an opera
2. I enjoy Wagner
3. I’m addicted to Game of Thrones
4. You’re more likely to find me at an arthouse movie than the latest Hollywood blockbuster
5. I’m a fan of old Hollywood film music – there’s nothing like the Psycho score
6. all, some or none of the above

Congratulations! However you answered, marketing coordinator Doug Emery and director of artistic planning Raff Wilson are positive you’re going to love Bluebeard’s Castle, Béla Bartók’s only opera, written in 1911. Opera? Twentieth century? Just bear with us.

“It’s only an hour long, so it's not a whopper to take in,” says Doug, whose mother Léone Ziegler is a violinist in Sydney Symphony (as is his aunt, Fiona Ziegler). He discovered Bluebeard a few years ago when he was studying cello at the Con. “For some reason, I found myself in the opera part of the library, which wasn’t the usual place for me to be.”

He can’t think of enough adjectives to describe the piece he heard – extraordinary, colourful, lush, rich, expressive, atmospheric, thrilling, creepy and unsettling will do for starters.

This is a work that only requires two singers, so there’s no chance of getting confused about who’s who. “It’s an easy story and the music’s accessible,” says Doug. In essence, new bride Judith comes home for the first time to her husband Count Bluebeard’s castle, where there are seven locked doors. Over Bluebeard’s objections Judith, his fourth wife, insists on opening all the doors – a big mistake, because she doesn’t like what she finds. It’s based on a French folk tale, but given a twist by librettist, Béla Balázs, a friend of Bartók’s, who was perhaps influenced by Freud and playwrights Strindberg and Ibsen.

Raff describes it as “a supercharged musical experience, a strange and creative work – it’s a puzzle, something that needs figuring out in a good way. You come out buzzing from it.”

Bluebeard's Castle

29 Nov-2 Dec 2017

Bluebeard's Castle

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To anyone used to more traditional opera with overtures and arias, this concert performance (with minimal staging, as in the premiere performance in Budapest) will be a complete surprise. “You sit down ready to hear a full orchestra, and are suddenly confronted with one person on stage, speaking in Hungarian for a few minutes,” says Raff. That approach, adds Doug “really introduces you to the psychology of the piece”.

As for the two singers on stage, “Vocally, they’re grand voices, powerhouses – quite Wagnerian,” says Raff. Both Michelle DeYoung and John Relyea have thrilled audiences around the world with their performances of Bluebeard – now it’s Sydney’s turn.

Bluebeard’s Castle (sung in Hungarian with English surtitles), will be conducted by David Robertson and feature bass, John Relyea (pictured above). Bluebeard’s Castle runs from 29 November to 2 December, 2017, at the Sydney Opera House.

Why you can't miss Bluebeard's CastleWhy you can't miss Bluebeard's Castle