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Fairytale gone bad

By Maria Gregoriou

We’ve all been bombarded with texts for Valentine’s Day offers and most of us are a bit fed-up with all the hype. So why not do something out of the ordinary this Valentine’s night and watch a show streaming in to us live from the New York’s Metropolitan Opera at K Cineplex in Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos.

These screenings present us on the island with some great opportunities to see performances we would have normally missed. And this performance falls nowhere short of our expectations when it comes to entertainment value.

This Saturday’s double bill will bring Peter Tchaikovsky’s fairytale opera Iolanta, followed by Bela Bartoki’s psychological thriller Bluebeard’s Castle (not exactly Valentine material, so you can see what we mean when we say ‘doing something different’.)

In both operas, soprano Anna Netrebko is the leading lady. In Iolanta she plays the lead, a blind girl who lives a secluded life as her father, King Rene, hid her from the world and placed her in the care of Martha and Bertrand. The king has two objectives for doing this, firstly he doesn’t want his daughter to find out she is blind and he also wants to keep this detail away from Robert, Iolanta’s future husband.

The king brings a physician to see Iolanta. After he examines her he states that she can be cured but her sight will only be gained if she is psychologically prepared by being made aware of her own blindness. The king refuses as he fears that his daughter will suffer two tragedies if she first finds out that she cannot see and then if the treatment does not work and she is disappointed and still in the dark.

The next scene introduces Robert and his friend Vaudemont who arrive at court. Robert tells his friend that he does not want to marry Iolanta because he is in love with someone else.

While the two are in court, Vaudemont comes across the secret garden where the protagonist is excluded. He ignores the signs which threaten death to anyone who enters, sees Iolanta sleeping and it is love at first sight.

Robert is convinced that she is a sorceress who has bewitched his friend so he goes to fetch troops to rescue his friend. In the mean time, Iolanta awakens and Vaudemont realises she is blind because she gives him the wrong coloured rose twice. They fall in love after he explains light and colour to her.

The last scene opens with the couple being discovered by the king. As the princess now knows that she is blind, the cure may work so the king decides to go ahead with it. But to make sure that it will work, he threatens to kill Vaudemont as he ignored the warning at the garden’s entrance, if the treatment does not work.

Robert returns with the troops and tells the king that he loves another but will stay true to his word to marry his daughter. The king cancels the wedding contract and agrees to let Vaudemont marry Iolanta.

In the end the treatment works and Iolanta can see and the court rejoices.

Now enter a very different land where something sinister lurks behind locked doors.

The one act opera Bluebeard’s Castle is loosely based on the French literary tale by Charles Perrault.

In this second opera Netrebko plays Judith, Bluebeard’s new wife. The couple arrive at Bluebeard’s castle and, although Judith has heard of the terrifying rumours circulating around Bluebeard, she chooses to stay with him, even when he gives her the option to go.

They enter the dark castle and Judith asks Bluebeard to open all the seven locked doors to let some light in but Bluebeard refuses, saying that they are private places and she should love him but ask no questions. But the new wife persists and her will is done.

The first door opens to reveal a torture chamber, stained with blood. Judith is repelled but still intrigued so she carries on to the next door, which opens to reveal a storehouse of weapons. The third is a room filled with riches.

Judith feels uneasy but she continues to let light into the house because she wants him to open up to her and reveal his inner self to his new wife; she does what she can to show him that she really does love him and goes on opening doors.

The next door opens up to a garden, and then next opens up a window onto Bluebeard’s vast kingdom. Now she sees everything clearly as the sun has had time to set on them, and now she sees that everything is stained with blood.

Bluebeard pleads with her to stop but she won’t. The sixth door hides a lake of tears. At this Judith’s husband again tells her to stop and just love him and ask no questions.

The last door must be shut forever, he tells her, but she won’t stop now, right at the last door. Behind the seventh door is a place between life and death, where Bluebeard’s three former wives, still alive, are kept.

Now Judith joins them and becomes a part of Bluebeard’s collection forever. The circle of her journey closes and the house returns to darkness.

The two operas are directed by Polish film director Martiusz Trelinski, while the music is conducted by Valery Gergiev.

Iolanta/ Bluebeard’s Castle
Screening of the performances from the MET. February 14. K Cineplex Nicosia (Engomi), Limassol, Larnaca and Paphos. 7pm. €18/13. Tel: 24-819022

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