Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle
Saturday, February 14, 2015
I broke my regular Saturday routine, which consists of prepping my class lessons for the week, then going to the theatre in the evening. My friend Julia recommended I put off my school work for one day, since it President’s Day Weekend. She wanted to go to IKEA, but I suggested we go to see the Met Live in HD at BAM. It was a double feature, Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta and Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle.
I am not a big opera fan, but watching the production in HD on the big screen has its advantages. The interviews with the stage director (Mariusz Trelinski), the conductor (Valery Gregiev), and the stars (Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, Nadja Michael, and Mikhail Petrenko) during intermission (on screen, or course) gave a deeper insight into the juxtaposition of the two one-act operas. The production was inspired by the classic noir films of the 1940s. Both stories are fairy tales. Iolanta explores the coming into the light of a young woman as she finds her true love. Bluebeard’s Castle delves into the dark side of love as Judith, the main character, becomes victimized by her circumstances. The performances were moving, engaging, and intense. The through line of images and color, props and lighting from the first opera to the second illustrated the extension of theme that Mariusz Trelinski identified in his interview. These images along with the interview details allowed me to follow the character and theme development from the Iolanta’s fairy tale happy ending to the darker metaphors in Bluebeard’s Castle.
The always enthralling communal experience of any theatrical endeavor is why I attend every weekend. Upon entering, Julia mentioned how we were among the youngest members of the audience. That was an interesting thing for her to notice, especially since there is a 30 year difference between her age and mine. I did wonder why the showing was not in one of the cinemas on the first floor of the BAM Rose. It would have made it a lot easier for a majority of the audience, since there were no elevators or easy access to the theatre. After we found seats, Julia pointed out the turquoise knit sweater sticking out of the coat sleeve or the elderly gentleman seated to her left.
“It makes me think there’s a whole other personality under his conservative exterior," Julia said.
We laughed as I told her I was in an elbow battle with the man seated to my right, he claimed the arm rest before we arrived and proceeded to inch his elbow into my side all the way through Iolanta.
Julia had a great conversation with the turquoise sweater man on her left during the intermission. He was telling her that he and his wife used to go to the Met often and sit in the dress circle. They could not see the faces of the singers, but were happy to hear and experience the music and voices. He continued to tell her how much he prefers the Met in HD presentations. He said it is a more personal experience, since he can see the singers’ expressions, the acting nuances, and production detail up close. I definitely agree with him. Between the close-ups and the English subtitles, the Met in HD is a truly engaging experience.
Clearly, Julia lucked out with the communal experience. I, on the other hand, continued to sit with my elbows glued to my sides as the man to my left spread out across the arm rest during Bluebeard’s Castle. Some people just need to get out more.
“So,” I said to Julia as we walked out of BAM into the lightly falling snow, “this is what people do on a Saturday afternoon.”
“Yes,” she replied, “and it’s only 4:20.”
Be sure to take in on of the upcoming Met Live in HD presentations at BAM on one of the following Saturdays: March 14 and April 25. When I got to the box office about an hour and a half before show time, I bought the last two tickets that were available, so I recommend getting your tickets ahead of time.