Psychological thriller comes to Colorado Music Festival

Opera Star Samuel Ramey will be gust artist for Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle

By Peter Alexander

Samuel Ramey and Krisztina Szabó singing "Bluebeard's Castle"

Samuel Ramey and Krisztina Szabó singing “Bluebeard’s Castle”

Jean-Marie Zeitouni, music director of the Colorado Music Festival (CMF), makes Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle sound almost like a Hollywood horror movie.

“The musical score is warning about danger,” he says of the one-act opera, which he will conduct as part of a Festival Orchestra concert Thursday and Friday, July 23 and 24, in the Chautauqua Auditorium. The concert, titled “Beyond Fairy Tales,” will conclude with a concert performance of the opera. Also on the program is Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, as arranged by the composer in 1919.

Performing the two roles of Duke Bluebeard and his bride Judith will be baritone Samuel Ramey, a world-renowned opera star who agreed to step in as a last-minute substitute, and Hungarian-Canadian soprano Krisztina Szabó. Ramey is well known for his performances of Bluebeard’s Castle at the Metropolitan Opera and his recordings of the role.

Béla Bartók

Béla Bartók

In case you don’t recall the story, Duke Bluebeard brings his bride, Judith, to his gloomy castle and instructs her that there are doors that she must never open. Like a horror movie character, of course, she does open the doors — in spite of warnings from the orchestra — and finds evidence of Bluebeard’s bloody past. The opera goes beyond the original fairy tale, however, adding a deeper level of symbolism to the story.

“It’s a deep psychological thriller, initiated as a fairy tale,” Zeitouni says. “Bartók and the librettist seek to understand the psychology of the characters and make them more multi-dimensional.

“It’s a groundbreaking composition, [with] sounds and instrumental colors that were never heard before in a modern symphony orchestra. It’s something that was so important to share with the CMF audience.”

Read more in Boulder Weekly.

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