Today’s blog entry sails through time to our April 19 and 22, 2013 production of Bela Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle. Our Bluebeard, the fantastic Samuel Ramey, is not new to the role. He has performed the role several times including his 1984 Metropolitan Opera debut and in 2007 at the Washington National Opera. We look forward to hosting Mr. Ramey and Kara Shay Thomson as our Bluebeard and Judith for Opera Omaha’s production of Bartok’s only opera.
Included below is a synopsis of Bluebeard’s Castle, written by Karin Cooper and published in World of Opera on the NPR website at the time of the 2007 Washington National Opera production. A link included with the synopsis takes you to the original writing and production photos of Samuel Ramey as Bluebeard and Denyce Graves as his new bride.
Below the quoted synopsis is a You Tube video of Samuel Ramey’s appearance on Sesame Street. It’s fun to watch and gives a limited peek at the voice that inspired an admirer to say this about Mr. Ramey, “There are three tenors, but there’s only one bass.”
Link to original work: ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’ and ‘Gianni Schicci’
Published synopsis written by Karin Cooper for World of Opera on NPR:
After a spoken prologue, reminding us that we’re about to hear a story of the mind, Duke Bluebeard returns to his castle with his new bride, Judith. She’s elegantly dressed, in a silvery white dress with a bright red scarf. But the castle is dark and dank, there are no windows, and the walls sweat with moisture.
Judith has married Bluebeard against her family’s wishes. But when he quizzes her about that, she says she has no regrets. As for the forbidding castle, she says she’ll brighten the place up.
The castle has seven mysterious doors, and Judith’s curiosity about what’s behind them becomes her weakness. She needs to know Bluebeard’s secrets, and she plays on her femininity to persuade her husband to unlock the first two.
When the first door opens, Judith sees shackles, daggers and branding irons. Blood is seeping from the walls. This is no rumpus room with a few whips and chains. It’s a fully equipped torture chamber, and Bluebeard admits it. But when he asks Judith if that frightens her, she says no.
Behind the next door is Bluebeard’s armory, containing an array of bloodstained weapons. Again, Judith says she is not afraid, and she insists on having the keys to all the doors. She says, “I came here because I love you. I am yours. Show me all your secrets.”
The mood and the music change as the third door opens. Behind it are Bluebeard’s immense riches. There are diamonds, gold and fabulous gowns of ermine. He offers her everything. Judith notices that all the precious gems are stained with blood.
Bluebeard encourages her to open door number four. It opens into a place of great beauty, a secret garden — where Judith glimpses spatters of blood on the roses.
The opening of the fifth door marks the high point in the musical arc of the opera. The huge orchestra, including an organ, blares triumphantly, and Judith lets out a loud cry as the door reveals a panoramic view of Bluebeard’s entire kingdom. It’s all hers if she wants it. A glorious light streams in, but the lands are awash with blood.
Bluebeard declares the last two doors off limits. But Judith is obsessed and sweet-talks Bluebeard into opening number six. As Judith turns the key, she can hear deep sighs and the sound of weeping. Behind the door is a strangely tranquil lake. “What sort of water is this?” she asks. Bluebeard admits that it’s not water. It’s a lake of tears.
Bluebeard begs Judith for kisses, but she’s focused only on what’s behind the final door. She has guessed his secret. She says the rumors must be true. He has murdered each of his three former wives.
When the seventh door is unlocked, Judith sees them, dressed in their finery — seemingly alive, but shimmering and ghostly. Bluebeard says he met one of his wives at daybreak, one at noon, and one in the evening. And now a fourth, at midnight. Bluebeard insists that she will be the queen of all his wives. Judith begs to be spared, but he takes the red scarf she’s wearing and strangles her with it. After a brief struggle, he drops her to the ground, and Bluebeard is alone once more.
Samuel Ramey on Sesame Street – “L Toreador”