Winners of the Armel Opera Festival in Budapest, Péter Eötvés’s Senza Sangue and Bluebeard’s Castle by Bela Bartók, will be staged on Sept. 19 in London’s Hackney Empire Theatre.
The Armel Opera Festival is a unique operatic event that has presented opera rarities and, in particular, contemporary works since 2008. The distinctive feature of the festival – staging new productions from five different countries annually – is that it is combined with an international platform for emerging young singers at the start of their careers. The professional jury of the Armel Opera Competition assesses the singers’ vocal qualities their acting skills. The singers selected in two rounds of the competition are offered the main roles in the festival productions, and in the final stage of the challenge, they can prove their talent in the Armel Opera Festival performances and win the Award for Best Performer. The Armel Opera Festival shows are broadcast live on the French-German Arte Concert channel annually, and the recorded performances can be accessed by opera-loving audiences on the channel’s website for another six months.
Produced by Grand Opera Avignon, both performances premiered on June 27 in Budapest at the festival.
The Pannon Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Eötvös, whose “operatic psycho-thriller” was composed as a complementary piece to Bartók’s 1911 timeless classic. Senza Sangue (Without blood) tackles questions about redemption in times of war and forgiveness of unforgiveable crimes. The opera was directed by acclaimed Hungarian actor-director Róbert Alföldi. You can read more about the festival HERE.
Bluebeard’s Castle was directed by Nadine Duffaut, with Adrienn Miksch and Bálint Szabó performing.
PÉTER EÖTVÖS: SENZA SANGUE
Production of the Opera Grand Avignon. Opera in one act. Performed in Italian with English supertitles.
According to the official site of Armel Opera festival, Péter Eötvös’ psychothriller-opera Senza Sangue (Bloodless) was designated to be paired with Bluebeard. The opera takes place in a country su ering from civil war, and is based on the popular Italian writer, Alessandro Baricco’s novel of the same name. The protagonist of the story Nina escapes the murderers of her bother and father as a young girl by seeking shelter in a hole in the ground. One of the attackers notices her, but does not betray her. Decades later the girl meets the man in a lottery shop. The recognition terri es him. His fellow murderers are long dead and the circumstances of their deaths were not clear: will Pedro be the next? The original text of the novel was shaped by Eötvös’ constant creative partner and wife, Maria Mezei. She created a libretto that has the cross-examination and mutual understanding of the female and male protagonist’s trauma in its main focus. The opera begins with the meeting of the two main characters and with ashbacks of the murders. The viewer does not know whether the woman is actually behind the deaths of the man’s accomplices, nor what her next step is going to be.
BÉLA BARTÓK: BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE
Production of the Opera Grand Avignon and the Opera-Theater of Metz Metropole. Opera in one act. Performed in Hungarian with English supertitles.
Bluebeard’s Castle (1911) is Béla Bartók’s only, one- act opera. The libretto was written by Béla Balázs. Bluebeard had its premiere in 1918 at the Opera House in Budapest, but only after its remake twenty years later in 1938 can it be considered a veritable success. The opera has folklore and balladic roots. The two main characters are Bluebeard and Judith, his new wife. Bluebeard takes his new wife to his castle. Judith has heard foreboding rumours of this dark place, but she follows her husband trustingly. Arriving to the castle she finds seven closed doors. Her intent to unearth the secrets of the castle carries a symbolic meaning: what she truly wants to figure out is the hidden secrets of Bluebeard’s soul. He is aware that Judith’s forceful curiosity will lead to tragedy. He asks Judith not to open those closed doors, as opening them will be fatal and will bring eternal loneliness for them both instead of the long awaited happiness.
But Judith does not obey his request. When from behind the seventh, most guarded door three previous wives of Bluebeard emerge, there is no way of turning back for her. Judith enters the seventh room, their story ends, all she can be now is a part of his past.