Bartók’s scary ‘Duke Bluebeard’ comes to Davies Hall

Courtesy PhotoBéla Bartók’s “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle” is yet another modern opera filling The City’s performance halls this summer.

Courtesy PhotoBéla Bartók’s “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle” is yet another modern opera filling The City’s performance halls this summer.

Béla Bartók’s “Duke Bluebeard’s Castle” is yet another modern opera filling The City’s performance halls this summer.  

Directed by Michael Tilson Thomas, the San Francisco Symphony is presenting a semi-staged version of the challenging, rewarding work at Davies Symphony Hall this week in a program also featuring Jeremy Denk performing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

While John Adams’ “Nixon in China,” onstage next door at the War Memorial Opera House in a San Francisco Opera production, is 25 years old, “Bluebeard” was written a century ago.

Still, “Bluebeard,” which hasn’t been performed in The City for more than 30 years, is thrilling “new” music. The powerful and memorable opera has shocking dissonances, great drama and deep psychological impact.

<p>MTT describes the work as “tense, terrifying and ultimately thrilling.” He says, “Bartók uses the orchestra to great effect as a kind of third character, commenting as the story unfolds and more and more of Bluebeard’s secrets are revealed.”

Based on a French fairy tale by Charles Perrault (author of “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty”), “Bluebeard” is a story for adults about a mysterious duke, Bluebeard (portrayed by bass Alan Held), who brings his new bride home to his castle.

As Judith (mezzo soprano Michelle DeYoung) explores her surroundings, and takes measure of her husband, she finds herself trapped, unable to escape from the consequences of knowing too much.

The chain of episodes leads from the castle’s torture chamber to the armory, treasury, garden, a view of Bluebeard’s kingdom (with a majestic outburst of music), a pool of tears and a surprise beyond the final door.

The production, which is co-directed by filmmaker Nick Hillel and features projections by Adam Wiltshire, was co-commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Konzerthaus Dortmund and Gulbenkian Foundation. MTT’s New World Symphony in Miami also has presented it.

José Maria Condemi, who is staging the local “Bluebeard,” calls it “theater of the mind. I cannot think of more juicy, interesting material to stage, particularly with the use of these enhanced video projections.”

IF YOU GO
Duke Bluebeard’s Castle
Presented by San Francisco Symphony
Where: Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday
Tickets: $35 to $145
Contact: (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org

artsClassical Music & OperaentertainmentOperaSan Francisco Symphony

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower and several other buildings in downtown San Francisco can be seen through the fog; climate scientists report that The City’s beloved mascot may be on the decline. (Courtesy Engel Ching)
Is San Francisco losing its fog? Scientists fear the worst

This isn’t just an identity crisis for San Franciscans. It’s an ecological problem

Outside Lands boasts high-quality food and drink from dozens of purveyors, and many are local.<ins> (Courtesy Outside Lands)</ins>
Outside Lands is for food lovers

85 food vendors, 40 wineries, 30 breweries make the festival nourishing to gluttonous

California Highway Patrol officers watch as Caltrans workers remove barricades from homeless camp sites as residents are forced to relocate from a parking lot underneath Interstate 80 on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco’s broken promise to resolve homeless encampments

‘There is an idea that The City is leading with services, and they are not’

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

Gabriela Lopez, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga were sworn in to the Board of Education on Jan. 7, 2019. The election date for their possible recall is Feb. 15, 2022. (Ida Mojadad/S.F. Examiner)
The silver lining of San Francisco’s ‘recall fever’

Recalls are an expensive but valuable amplifier for everyday people

Most Read