Opera review: Dido and Aeneas | Bluebeard’s Castle

Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Oper Frankfurt’s Dido and Aeneas | Bluebeard’s Castle at the Festival Theatre, reviewed by Ken Walton

[Director Barrie Kosky’s staging of Dido and Aeneas utilises a madcap, theatrical, but convincing style. Picture: Monika Rittershaus]

It takes a brave, creative director to bring off an operatic double bill in which both operas have barely a morsel in common. Australian director Barrie Kosky does exactly that with Oper Frankfurt’s unlikely coupling of Purcell’s classic tragedy Dido and Aeneas and Bartok’s psycho-horror Bluebeard’s Castle.

His trick is to play to their differences, even to invert them. So Dido’s world of wide open vistas becomes a claustrophobic den of intrigue and iniquity, the action – crazy burlesque moments adding a dark socially manipulative strand – constrained in front of the stage curtain and spilling over into the orchestra pit.

In contrast, the dark and eerie confinement of Bluebeard’s castle is ignored in favour of an expansive, blank revolving stage on which Bluebeard and Judith play out the grim psychology minus literal reference to the seven doors, with only multiplying clones of themselves offering mute symbolism.

The greatest liberties are taken in the Purcell, its madcap theatrical style encouraging musical director Constantinos Carydis and his upbeat period instrument band to stop, start and bowdlerise the music as they see fit. All convincing within the theatrical context, except for Dido’s interminable huffing and puffing after her valedictory Lament – a role glowingly sung by Paula Murrihy.

Robert Hayward (Bluebeard) and Tanja Ariane Baumgartner (Judith) are magnificent in the Bartok, filling the minimalist set with maximum emotional clout. The full Oper Frankfurt orchestra also immerses itself completely.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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