Thursday, August 28, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

UC Davis offers a visit to ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’

Judith (Jessican Medoff) has opened the first door to the castle and doesn't like what she sees — a torture chamber — in "Bluebeard's Castle," a two-character opera to be staged Friday and Sunday by the UC Davis departments of music, theatre and dance. Duke Bluebeard (Gregory Stapp) pleads for Judith not to open any of the other seven doors. UC Davis/Courtesy photo

By
February 23, 2011 |

Be careful what you wish for.

That’s one of the take-away lessons in Béla Bartók’s compact two-character opera “Bluebeard’s Castle,” which the UC Davis departments of music, theater and dance will stage at the Mondavi Center at 8 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

The opera runs barely an hour, and the story is an interior journey involving newlyweds … who are not exactly a match made in heaven.

The husband is Duke Bluebeard, an older nobleman whose very name hints at a fearsome past. He lives in a gloomy stone castle — with multiple locked doors, and no windows. Bluebeard has been married several times in the past, and as the opera begins, he’s welcoming an attractive young bride named Judith to her forbidding new home.

Judith, like many a spouse, wants to learn more about her husband’s past. Repeatedly, she asks Bluebeard for one of the keys that will open a locked door — and after some resistance, he reluctantly complies. But sometimes, there are things about your spouse that are perhaps better left unknown.

That simple description covers the basics of the plot. The story actually comes from an old Eastern European folktale. But don’t take the plot too literally. As the composer’s son, Peter Bartók, says in his introduction to this new English translation of the opera’s libretto (which originally was written in Hungarian), “It is tempting, but would be a mistake, to treat this opera as one about the legendary wicked man who killed his wives.” Rather, many regard Bluebeard’s castle as representing his soul, or his psyche.

“The clue to the story’s symbolic nature is given in the Bard’s Prologue” at the opera’s beginning, Peter Bartók says, “giving us the hint that we should look for the meaning of the story, rather than what is on the stage in front of us. We should examine the stage within us, in our own lives.”

Mounting “Bluebeard’s Castle” has been a major goal for conductor Christian Baldini, who came to the UC Davis Symphony in 2009.

“We’ve been planning this for a year and a half,” Baldini said. “This opera is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. It was written exactly 100 years ago (in 1911).” It was a time when Sigmund Freud’s theories were emerging as an important intellectual force.

“This opera is very psychological,” Baldini said. “Judith is completely amazed by this man; she’s wanting to understand who her husband is. She keeps asking for more keys, and he say ‘No, no. You should be happy now.’ ”

Yet Bluebeard relents. Baldini said he’s convinced that Judith is “hearing what she wants to hear” from Bluebeard’s warnings, and believes “that she is going to change this man.” But life is always more complicated than that.

The stage direction is by faculty members Peter Lichtenfels and Bela Merlin — and as they’ve worked on the production, Lichtenfels has found himself gravitating toward Bluebeard, while Merlin has focused more on Judith. The set, by faculty member John Iacovelli, features the requisite seven locked doors. The lighting is by faculty member John Munn, who was the lighting director/designer with the San Francisco Opera from 1976 to 2000, and continues to design for San Francisco and other leading opera companies.

The atmospheric music and lighting — which start out in a gloomy mode, building up to bursts of light in the middle of the opera, and moving back into gathering gloom toward the end — convey the arc of the story, as the doors open one by one.

“Doors are fascinating. As soon as you see a door — and it’s closed — you want to know what’s behind it, don’t you?” Lichtenfels observed. “It creates curiosity. And in terms of this opera, it’s heightened because we can’t see any windows. The doors are the only potential way to let in light.”

Merlin acknowledged that the opera “is dark, but I would say it’s sorrowful, rather than dark. And we feel quite strongly that Judith finds the mysterious in Bluebeard extremely exciting. She finds that quite appetizing.”

Playing Bluebeard will be Gregory Stapp, a veteran basso profundo of imposing stature (6-foot-6). He’s sung Bluebeard before, in a 1995 concert version with the Berkeley Symphony, under the baton of California-born conductor Kent Nagano. Stapp also has sung dozens of roles with the San Francisco Opera, and appeared with many other opera companies and orchestras around the country.

Playing Judith will be Jessica Medoff, a young lyric soprano from New York who is still in the early phases of her career.

Tickets are $15 to $35 general and $7.50 to $17.50 for students, available online at http://www.mondaviarts.org or by calling the box office at (530) 754-2787.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8055. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Testimony in Marsh trial starts Tuesday

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    School’s back, with gradual return to smaller classes

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    New live-work project approved for Del Rio Place

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Marcy finds her place in the DHS Hall of Fame

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Russian columns enter Ukraine

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Lawmakers approve groundwater management bill

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Quake is major test for hard-luck city

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Do you have a project for the noon Rotary club?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Learn about Girl Scouting at meeting

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Low-income Davis homeowners can save money and go green

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Employee parking permits downtown streamlined

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

     
    Prospective foster parents welcome

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis Media Access: Get involved in community media

    By Autumn Labbe-Renault | From Page: A4

     
    ‘Art of Acting’ offered at Senior Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tai chi classes set at Davis Senior Center

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Stroll Through History highlights Beamer Park

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    All are welcome at monthly sing-along

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Hosts sought to befriend international visitors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Museum wants your old Davis High School yearbooks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Forum

    Lunch at the big table, again

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Perfectly good playground?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Work on gun control instead

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Military has too much money

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Put flowers in our hair

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Give cops the ability to protect

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Don’t let MRAP be a tool for bigger mistakes

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Yes, mother’s milk is best

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    Gould, Shaw won’t dwell on it, but Biggs remembers The Upset

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    No. 8 keeps Republic unbeaten streak at 8

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS boys look to win seventh soccer section title

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    New attitude, new stadium for 2014 UCD field hockey

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Aggie men ranked 11th in water polo poll

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    Dunning picks Cupcake Week

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

    Youth roundup: Judges like what they see from Davis Diamonds

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Baseball roundup: Huge inning helps Cats in Nashville

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

    .

    Features

    Local teacher and artist turns 100

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A10 | Gallery

     
    100 years’ worth of stories

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    .

    Arts

     
    Ethereal dream pop to illuminate Sophia’s Thai Kitchen

    By Anthony Siino | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    Well-known artist will be juror for exhibition

    By Lily Holmes | From Page: A11

     
    Outdoor art classes to close out summer

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Margarita Elizondo

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A2

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, August 28, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6