Most excitingâ€”unbelievable, in factâ€”is their presentation of Robert Lepage’s production of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s monodrama Erwartung (Feb. 21-March 7), which I saw in Vancouver in 1998 and never dreamed would be done here. I did, however, hang on to the review I wrote:
“Bartokâ€™s 45-minute opera is a duologue between Bluebeard and his bride Judith. In his great hall stand seven doors; one by one she demands to open them, revealing the horrors and wonders within. But behind the last are the apparitions of Bluebeardâ€™s three previous wives, and Judith joins them to be sealed up forever as the curtain falls. In Michael Levineâ€™s black-box set, the floor, ceiling, and walls slope up, down, and in from the proscenium to converge on a portcullised entrance at the rear of the stageâ€”a space which both conveys the somber vastness of a castle hall and becomes increasingly claustrophobic as the psychological screws tighten. Robert Thomsonâ€™s lighting was an equal partner in the drama, from the row of illuminated keyholes in the darkness that marked the doors to the dazzling bursts of light as each one opened. Most magical was the moat at the lip of the stage, silvery waters from which the three wives rose, a stunningly beautiful effect.
“Lepageâ€™s Schoenberg staging used the same set. In the original stage directions, a woman wanders through the woods and discovers the body of her lover, who, it is implied, she killed in an insane fit of jealousy. Lepage presented this as a flashback from the womanâ€™s asylum cell, a hallucination decked with Dadaist details: a psychoanalyst in a chair on the wall, a floating bed, a scarlet moon.”
As long as I live, I’ll never forget the moat. “Stunningly beautiful” doesn’t even begin to cover it. This is the must-see of the season, if not the decade.