Monday night, there was a moment when Kara Shay Thomson, Judith, was marking (which means going through the blocking without singing at full volume) the beginning of the opera. All of a sudden, in response to one of Judith’s multiple requests to brighten the castle up, Sam Ramey dramatically proclaimed in his resounding bass-baritone: “We’re never going to turn the lights on!”
Not only was that moment hilarious, and made us all lose it for a second, it also got me thinking. If this were the Marriage of Figaro, the first 18 pages would be construed as Figaro and Susanna bickering over how high to set the thermostat and whether to leave the blinds open or closed. Then, the Count would probably come in and explain that the room next to his is much warmer, and Susanna should probably just sleep there…
But this is Bartok, and so opening material that, without music or subtext, could appear to be mundane marital discord over keeping the thermostat at a reasonable 68 degrees, instead plunges us headfirst into the script of Judith’s personal (and deeply psychological) episode of The Newlywed Game. Though Bluebeard is reluctant to invite her in, she overturns his repeated attempts to push her away by reminding him that she gave up everything– family, roses, sunshine, even a fiancée– for him. In a moment of total transparency, she admits that if he turns her away, he will find her collapsed on his doorstep. Judith gives herself over to Bluebeard completely and, in return, she demands access to his entire internal being.
This story probably would have a much happier outcome if Judith stuck to traditional Newlywed questions like “What candy bar would you choose to describe our love life?”. Spoiler alert: That’s assuming his answer isn’t “Milky Way Midnight and you will join Babe Ruth, Mars Gold, and Hershey’s Bliss Dark Chocolate in my secret candy drawer.” But that wouldn’t make for very good opera, and so Judith’s version of The Newlywed Game morphs into an extremely twisted episode of Let’s Make a Deal.
Stay tuned to find out what’s behind Doors Number 1-3!
Do you need tickets to see Bartok’s operatic masterpiece on April 19 or 21? Purchase them online at Ticket Omaha or by calling 402-345-0606.