On Saturday night we were fortunate enough to attend the final performance of Bartóks Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring at the Coliseum. Pairing a dark opera with a provocative ballet may seem like an odd choice but the ENO successfully managed to tie the two together.
Sure, Clive Bayley would probably would have made a better Captain Ahab than a Bluebeard, and perhaps the overall tone could have been darker, but he alongside Michaela Martens as Judith sang wonderfully. The staging was relatively simple, unlike that of Turandot, which left much to the imagination-as it should be. In the end, Bluebeard reveals that he has kept (in a very Mr. Rochester fashion) three wives hidden away in the depths of his castle. Before the curtain drops, he stands at the centre of his wives, each lying on her back, legs splayed open. We notice the blood on their thighs as he raises his sword, in one last gruesome gesture, leaving us to picture what will happen next to the overly curious Judith.
The Rite of Spring, which was co-produced with the Irish company Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, lifted the bizarre and orgiastic elements of Bluebeard and transformed them into the perfect modern day dithyramb. We should take note that the idea that Dionysus had roots in Russia was highly popular among dramatists at the time Stravinsky and Nijinsky were working on the piece.
Fake snow falls on male dancers as they gloomily stomp about holding large cardboard boxes. Three women, each looking fairly uniform, accept tea from a strange woman. They then writhe about on the ground and place rabbit masks on their heads. Meanwhile, the men become overcome by their carnal desires. They drop to the ground to mimic certain acts, temporarily wear dog masks, and then strip off entirely before donning brightly coloured dresses. One of the women (Daphne Strothmann) dances in the centre of it all, her dress and mask gone, until the snow stops and a yellow backdrop appears. The overall effect is chilling.
Often when two pieces are paired together, one outshines the other. In this case, each piece (which were both beautifully performed by the orchestra) leaves us feeling slightly uncomfortable and wondering if there is something missing to the story. It would be hard to pick a favourite of the two. We came away wanting more, which is not necessarily how we normally feel when leaving the opera. We're excited to see what else the ENO has in store and will be sure to keep an eye out for any future productions from the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre.
For information about future events, please visit the ENO's website. Images by Johan Perrson.