The Metropolitan Opera’s streaming of the double bill Iolanta / Bluebeard finally came to Sydney, about 3 months after the Feb 14 live stream. Better later than never :). It was with a happy bounce that I made my way to the theatre on an overcast Saturday late morning. I’ve missed that.
We started off with Tchaikovsky’s happy fairy tale of an opera, Iolanta, about a blind princess who has been kept literally kept in the dark by her protective father about her blindness. That is, until she meets a knight who “shows” her what she’s been missing in life and convinces her to desire light enough for a Moorish doctor to cure her. Bit of a clumsy story if you ask me, but I was still oddly moved. I loved the lyrical score, and the standout cast delivered. As always, Anna Netrebko and Piotr Biotr Beczala had plenty of electricity on stage, given their chemistry offstage. I wasn’t so much of a fan of some of the directing and staging however, and felt that it seemed visually staid with the bulk of the action set in a mostly bare rotating box.
That first opera had a happy ending. Which was quite jarring that we followed up with a super dark one. According to the director Mariusz Trelinski though, the order decision was based on the theme of exploring the growing life experience of a single female meta-character, and vision and knowledge can bring.
But Bluebeard. Oh my god. If there’s one opera I’d recommend to an opera neophyte, now, this would be it. Which might be an odd choice, since it’s hardly common repertoire. But it’s a digestible hour long performance, and especially with director Trelinski’s film-noir treatment that perfectly complements the dramatic tension of Bartok’s psychological-thriller of an opera. I was kept on edge the entire performance, drawn in by Nadja Michael’s intense physicality as obsessed Judith and Mikhail Petrenko’s creepy Bluebeard. I’m not sure how the Trelinski’s cinematic staging looks in real life with the singers sometimes shafted off to the side with computer imagery given center stage. But on the screen, we were able to lock in on the palpable tension of the singers with each other as well as appreciate the sinister details of Bluebeard’s castle. I think it may have been the most exciting opera staging I’ve seen.