Bartok's opera Bluebeard's Castle, currently playing at The Met and on film at Cinema Nouveau, really need not puzzle anyone or give enthusiasts, as it inevitably will, much to become profound and Freudian about, citing its dark psychological implications.
Rather see it as a straightforward exercise in the macabre, a horror movie for the opera house, created before the cinema came to provide horror as routine public entertainment - or, should I say, provide it routinely for those who enjoy horror as entertainment.
Horrible the opera indeed is, masterfully produced, dark, intense and ghastly, with dark and intense performances from the two leading - and only - singers. You do not come out of Bluebeards Castle whistling the tunes. There is my personal problem with it. It is 'tunes', it seems to me, that music must be about, however compelling the dramatic theme may be.
That perhaps sounds trivial. But Tchaikovsky's last, lovely one-act opera Iolanta, which played before Bluebeard's Castle, bore out the point for me in more ways than one. Iolanta is also an opera for our times, by contrast beautifully celebrating life and Nature, love and, most unfashionably these days, faith in God. You could find it totally soppy - until you have it followed by the Bartok, when the whole evening comes into perspective and works exactly as director Mariusz Trelinski intended it should: Light and Dark.
And, as you would expect from Tchaikovsky, Iolanta is melodious. Melody is what music is in the end - Borodin, Puccini, Debussy, Ravel, not forgetting Gershwin and Cole Porter and so many others, including Wagner, whatever they say about him being 'heavy'. I would have staged Bluebeard, wife murderer and necrophile, first, and sent the audience home cheered and uplifted by Iolanta, the princess wonderfully cured of blindness by love. Dark and Light.