The Symphony and a Psycho-Thriller by Guest Blogger Hal France

Mar 29, 2013

Today I had the pleasure of being onstage with the Omaha Symphony at the Holland Center and I am looking forward to the contribution those musicians will make to our production of Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

There will be several really good opportunities before the performances on April 19 and 21 for everyone to get into my current favorite opera. On Tuesday, April 9, Stage Director Andrew Eggert and Production Designer Julia Noulin-Merat will be at the Bemis at 7 p.m. talking about their concept. I will be at Joslyn Castle with Nils Haaland on Friday, April 12 at 7 p.m. to talk about the score. We will also all be together in Opera Omaha’s space on Tuesday, April 16 at noon for lunch and ideas. Finally, I will be doing lobby previews 45 minutes before curtain for both shows.

Because of the production concept of Eggert, Noulin-Merat, and Opera Omaha there will be an orchestra of 70 playing Bartok’s score in the performance. This is the largest orchestra to play a full production at the Orpheum in Opera Omaha’s history. They won’t be in their usual spot, the orchestra pit; capacity 52, but will be in Duke Bluebeard’s castle onstage!

This will allow the audience a chance to experience Bartok’s remarkable score in its full sonic splendor. This new approach taken by General Director Roger Weitz opens the possibility for more new adventures and a variety of great operas in future seasons. Very cool!!

Last night, my class at UNO looked at a really interesting connection between this opera and one of my favorite things, movies! Bluebeard is really an operatic psycho- thriller! It precedes the film genre that Hitchcock, Welles, Scorsese and countless filmmakers made popular.

The class listened to Bernard Hermann’s scores for Psycho (1960), Vertigo (1959), and Citizen Kane (1941). We heard many things that reminded of Bluebeard. It’s interesting that Bartok and Bela Balazs, his librettist, finished Bluebeard in 1911 the same year Hermann was born. At the time, Bartok was 30, the same age Hermann would be when he completed his masterful score for Citizen Kane.

Listening to Hermann’s music and then to Bluebeard, one could hear what a resource classical composers were to the Filmic Arts. Long before filmmakers could show the limitless human imagination, larger than life visions were the ‘Bread and Butter’ of great musical storytellers and sound painters like Bartok, Stravinsky, Debussy and so many others.

Bluebeard’s Castle is a compelling psychological thriller and the 70 Omaha Symphony musicians onstage will be crucial to its success!

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