RLPO/Hindoyan review – shock but not enough awe in Bluebeard concert staging | Classical music


One of Domingo Hindoyan’s stated ambitions when he took on the chief conductorship of the Liverpool Philharmonic was to get the orchestra performing more opera. A concert performance of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle was the first glimpse of what’s to come operatically during his tenure.

“Where is the stage – outside or within?” the opening monologue asks. Bartók’s only opera is a disturbing tale underpinned by a general murkiness, a searching inward psychodrama as Judith slowly discovers just how troubled Bluebeard really is. The bright white interior of the Philharmonic Hall is less than ideal for such gloom but the artistic team, led by producer Katy Wakeford-Brown, made the best of a tricky assignment. Strong red hues throughout, plus X Factor-style lights that swivel at the climactic opening of the fifth door, certainly added oomph.

Domingo Hindoyan with the RLPO.
Domingo Hindoyan with the RLPO. Photograph: Gareth Jones

Bloody axes, shiny armour and gothic castles projected behind the orchestra gave the performance its basic, traditional framework, but with both leads reading from scores the dramatic potential was minimalised. Adrienn Miksch, a late replacement for an indisposed Jennifer Johnston, portrayed a determined Judith, adding a febrile edge to her probing of Károly Szemerédy’s sullen Bluebeard. Hindoyan’s direction of Bartók’s thrilling score had a convincing thrust to it, drawing a good deal of sonic terror – the pick being the shimmering Lake of Tears behind the sixth door. But this opera is so much more than its breathtaking sounds, and in a piece that can shock to the core, the drama fell a little short.

Bartók’s hour-long work presents a problem for programmers – a fraction too short to present without an opening companion piece. The opening Adagio from Mahler’s 10th Symphony echoes Bartók in its intensity of feeling; this surprisingly graceful rendition reserved some of that power for the second half.

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