Béla Bartók's one-act opera is an extraordinary and enigmatic work that, in terms of how it is interpreted and staged, poses an exciting challenge for directors, their creative teams and performers alike. Little wonder that it is such a popular work on opera schedules both in Hungary and abroad. Promising to be one of the most thrilling premieres of the “Around the Ring” Season is the new production of Bluebeard's Castle by internationally acclaimed director Kasper Holten. “To read, listen think and feel. The important thing is to avoid analysing it according to any preconception or always employing the same artistic style, but rather to develop a relationship with the work so I can completely understand what it is about it that fascinates me so much. Only then can I get started on the aesthetics, the concept and so forth,” says Holten.
As part of the Bluebeard100 programme series, Eötvös' Senza sangue will be performed together with the premiere of the new production of Bluebeard's Castle, as the first piece for the evening.
The protagonists of Béla Bartók and Bála Balázs's symbolist opera are Bluebeard and his wife, Judith, who has left her family and her betrothed in order to follow her love. However, Bluebeard's castle – that is, his soul – contains seven closed doors. Judith persuades her husband to open them, one after the other.
Behind the first door is the torture chamber, while the second leads to the armoury. Still unsatisfied, Judith wants to open the other doors in order to fill her beloved's castle with light. Bluebeard gives her three more keys: the third is for the treasury, the fourth opens the door to the hidden garden. The treasure and the flowers, nevertheless, are bloody. At her husband's bidding, Judith also opens the fifth door, where Bluebeard's realm shines with brilliant light. The clouds, however, cast dark shadows. Judith now wishes to look behind the “innermost” door, but she asks Bluebeard in vain: she must not ask, but instead simply love him. Judith receives the sixth key, which opens the door to the lake of tears. From behind the final door emerge the three former wives. All goes dark.
“No matter how incomprehensible life is, we cross it with only the sole yearning to return to the hell that spawned us. […] But one day it will be merciful with us, this hell. And without blood.”
In the town square of a small city, an elderly man runs a newsstand. A woman approaches the kiosk. They had met once before, 52 years earlier. The woman invites the man for a chat. They go to a café together and recall the day when fate brought them together, and what has happened since then.
It was wartime. The man was 20 years old at the time. The woman was a little girl huddled in the recess beneath a hatch so that the men who had already shot her father dead wouldn't find her. The man opened up the hatchway and came face to face with the hiding child. He then closed the door. Afterwards, he never told his companions that he had left somebody alive in the house. Later on, strange things happened: the man's companions who had taken part in the murder of the young girl's father die one after the other, all of them in strange ways. Only the man is still alive. He has always known that one day the woman he had saved, whose father he had been the first to shoot, would come. Now she is standing there in front of him.
From the perspective of 52 years, they share their stories and traumas with each other. Their separate truths become intertwined in a remarkable shared fate. “...that the one who saved us once is capable of doing it again and again.”
They head off towards a pension together. The man is named Pedro Cantos. The woman is called Nina.