A story about solitude, introspection, and death, presented in a hopscotch game contour – the Romanian Première of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, at #EnescuOnline
Between June 20 and 23, the Enescu Festival Online presents one of the most anticipated performances of the 2019 George Enescu International Festival – the Romanian première of Bluebeard’s Castle, the only opera composed by Béla Bartók. The program, presented on the Palace Hall stage, opens with an endearing interpretation of the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 by Serghei Prokofiev, with pianist Daniel Ciobanu as soloist.
As Béla Bartók’s first opera composing effort, Bluebeard’s Castle is a miraculous accomplishment – a flawless, captivating drama and one of the seminal works of the 20th century. Based on the sophisticated libretto fashioned by Béla Balázs from Charles Perrault’s fairy tale, whose suggestive imagery is rich with interpretive possibilities, inviting audiences to discover their meanings within the drama, Bluebeard’s Castle eerie score echoes Bartók’s own sense of alienation as a result of the burden of genius, his futile search of the ideal companion, his irredeemable spiritual loneliness. Under the baton of Cristian Mandeal, the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra bring majestically across the tension and anguish of this tale about soul-searching, vulnerability, and the fear of revealing our darkest secrets to those we love.
The opera reinterprets Bluebeard’s story in light of the era’s European preoccupations with symbolism, Nietzsche’s philosophy, and the emergent field of psychology via Freudian unconscious mind theory. From this angle, the character of Bluebeard, who is usually depicted as a monster who killed his wives, becomes in Bartók’s vision a symbol of the lonely man, subject to his inescapable destiny. His dialogues with his last wife, Judith, are an opportunity to probe the mysteries and sufferings of the soul confronted with incompleteness and near-miss in his quest for perfect love.
Judith is the British mezzo-soprano Allison Cook, one of the most versatile and appreciated voices in the contemporary repertoire, having as her dialogue partner, in the role of Bluebeard, the Australian baritone Derek Welton – critically quoted as the most promising Wagnerian voice of the young generation.
The Romanian première of Bluebeard’s Castle benefited from the directing vision of Nona Ciobanu, who created, together with the architect and visual artist Peter Košir, multimedia projections wrought in a surprising, immersive discourse. Nona Ciobanu, an artist appreciated both nationally and internationally, is one of the most original voices in the Romanian theatre. Her experience in the performing arts, from scenography and lights design to video, allows her to always employ a fresh and modern approach. Her talent is confirmed by the numerous international awards that rewarded her work.
Nominated as one of Romania’s 10 most influential people and awarded with high accolades for his cultural activity and service, Cristian Mandeal studied with Herbert von Karajan in Berlin and Sergiu Celibidache in Munich. He held important positions in his career – permanent conductor of the Târgu Mures Philharmonic Orchestra, and later of the Cluj-Napoca (Transylvania) Philharmonic Orchestra; Principal Conductor and General Music Director of the Bucharest Philharmonic, where he oversaw its rise as an top orchestra on the international scene. Cristian Mandeal has also been the Artistic Director of the Northern Israeli Orchestra, Haifa and the Euskadi Symphony – Basque National Orchestra, San Sebastian; Permanent Conductor of the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento; Principal Guest Conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, Manchester, the Belgrade Philharmonic, and the Copenhagen Philharmonic.
He has constantly been preoccupied with the education and encouragement of young musicians worldwide and has been invited to give master classes at Bloomington and Rutgers Universities in the United States, the Royal Northern Academy of Music in Manchester in the UK, and the Tokyo College of Music. Over the last nine years, Cristian Mandeal has concentrated his efforts on educating and nurturing the Romanian Youth Orchestra, which has risen in record time to be a worthy representative of contemporary Romanian musical culture, with remarkable national and international performances (the George Enescu International Festival, the Young Euro Classic-Berlin, the Aix en Province Festival, the Istanbul Festival, the Ravello Festival, the Mahler Festival in Toblach, the Varna Festival, concerts in Konzerthaus-Vienna, Santa Cecilia-Rome, Brucknerhaus-Linz, Bozar-Brussels).
The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (NOSPR) acts as an ambassador of Polish culture on the international musical scene. The Orchestra has collaborated with some of the greatest composers of the second half of the 20th century, including Witold Lutosławski, Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and Krzysztof Penderecki, presenting the first performances of their works.
The NOSPR was founded in 1935 in Warsaw by Grzegorz Fitelberg, who led it until the outbreak of World War II. In 1945, the Orchestra was revived in Katowice by Witold Rowicki. In the decades that followed, the orchestra’s artistic director was succeeded by internationally renowned musicians such as Grzegorz Fitelberg, Jan Krenz, Bohdan Wodiczko, Kazimierz Kord, Tadeusz Strugała, Jerzy Maksymiuk, Stanisław Wisłocki, Jacek Kaspszyk, Antoni W Alexander Liebreich, Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa, and Ewa Bogusz-Moore. Lawrence Foster is currently the artistic director and principal conductor of NOSPR.
Apart from recordings for the Polish Radio collection, the Orchestra has released over 200 albums under the most renowned record labels, winning such recognitions and awards as the Diapason d’Or and the Grand Prix du Disque de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque. Many distinguished conductors and soloists have performed with the NOSPR. The Orchestra has toured and appeared at festivals in nearly all the European countries, in the Americas, as well as in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and in the Persian Gulf states. Its numerous and internationally acclaimed projects include Maraton twórczości Góreckiego [The Górecki Music Marathon], Pociąg do muzyki Kilara [The Train to Kilar’s Music], and Muzyczne podróże morskie [Musical Voyages].