THE challenge in staging Bartok’s diabolical one-act opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, is finding a partner work that will achieve a convincing and complete evening’s entertainment. Scottish Opera have bitten the bullet and commissioned a new piece of music theatre from composer Lliam Paterson, in collaboration with theatre ensemble Vanishing Point.
The result is The 8th Door, in which a mute couple sit with their backs to the audience, their faces projected onto a centre screen, their relationship tumbling headlong from love’s young dream to bitter resentment and the woman’s lonely exit through a side door.
Scottish Opera: Bluebeard’s Castle & The 8th Door ****
Theatre Royal, Glasgow
“No two stars are as far apart as two human souls” sing the anonymous vocal sextet in the orchestral pit, and so the scene is set for Bartok’s protagonists Bluebeard and Judith, and a relationship way more sinister and, in Matthew Lenton’s non-literal production, deeply and enigmatically disturbing.
The clinching factor in The 8th Door is Paterson’s score, which revels in a shifting sea of colour and heightened theatrical allusions, its derivative influences offset by sheer strength of musical personality. He’s one to watch.
Lenton also impresses in this, his directorial debut in opera. He retouches the Bartok with contemporary spin, Bluebeard’s castle now a bachelor apartment, its grim “doors” recast as symbolic emblems, from a blood-red laptop screen to the tumultuous rending apart of the very walls as his kingdom is spectacularly revealed.
Robert Hayward’s Bluebeard and Karen Cargill’s Judith are utterly sensational. Conductor Sian Edwards finds powerful gravitas and emotional heat in both scores.