ArtsWatch Weekly: Bluebeards, villain kings, black art’s soul

The feminine mystique of "Bluebeard's Castle," Shakespeare's "Richard III," the trouble with Tiger Lily, black art and meaning in America

The naked truth about Bluebeard’s Castle, Béla Bartók’s astounding hour-long opera that the Oregon Symphony performed Saturday through Monday nights, is … well, let Elizabeth Schwartz explain it, in her typically erudite program notes:

“Bartók worked on the opera over the summer of 1911, when he and his wife Márta spent their holiday at a Swiss nudist colony near Zurich. [Librettist Béla] Balázs, who visited the colony that summer, noted in his diary how the industrious Bartók would spend hours in the solarium, wearing nothing but sunglasses, as he worked on the score.”

Viktoia Vizin as Judith, with Chihuly glass, in "Bluebeard's Castle." Photo: Jacob Wade/Oregon Symphony

Viktoria Vizin as Judith, with Chihuly glass, in “Bluebeard’s Castle.” Photo: Jacob Wade/Oregon Symphony

John and Yoko have nothing on that. And in a way, Bartók’s curious compositional strategy made sense: emotional nakedness is essential to the Bluebeard tale as Balázs retold it. The opera has just two singers: the aging, mysteriously private Bluebeard himself, and his new (fourth) bride, Judith, who insists on bringing some sunshine into the castle, and her new marriage, by demanding that Bluebeard open the seven locked doors that hide his secrets. Maybe not the best idea. At a talk Friday night with symphony director Carlos Kalmar, Christopher Mattaliano of Portland Opera, and the Portland Art Museum’s Bran Ferriso (the show’s set included marvelous glass works by Dale Chihuly), stage director Mary Birnbaum talked about Castle as Judith’s quest for knowledge and openness, which Bluebeard is loath to grant, and I’m inclined to agree that it’s really Judith’s story. Contrary to popular opinion, her soul sisters Eve and Pandora seem the heroes of their stories, too, the ones who provide the essential spark of humanness: How can one be fully human without curiosity and the compulsion to learn? Remember: the last bee to escape Pandora’s bonnet was hope.

Keep an eye out for Bruce Browne’s review of Bluebeard’s Castle on ArtsWatch’s home page.




DeGroat and O'Connell in "The Nether." Photo: Owen Carey

DeGroat and O’Connell in “The Nether.” Photo: Owen Carey

The Nether. Chantal DeGroat and Michael O’Connell star in Third Rail’s production of Jennifer Haley’s drama about virtual reality, a world without laws, and, as the publicity puts it, “your worst nightmare.” Opens Friday at Imago Theatre.

Rock the Presidents! What could this be? Northwest Children’s Theater & School embraces the political season with a “multimedia, rock ’n’ roll extravaganza” that tells the untoold story of the executive branch through the unsealed lips of the Secret Service. Or maybe Julian Assange. Opens Friday.

Richard III. Matt Smith stars as Shakespeare’s hunchbacked villain at Post5 Theatre. Director Patrick Walsh promises a “much more sympathetic” Richard than usual. On the other hand, the company advertises the show as “just in time for election season and Halloween,” which suggests a fair amount of horror. Opens Friday.

Looking for Tiger Lily. Anthony Hudson, aka Carla Rossi the drag clown, brings back what he calls his ode to growing up a “faggy little half-white city Indian in a small town,” a show that opened at this summer’s Risk/Reward festival. He talks about watching Mary Martin’s Peter Pan with its “Picaninny Indians” and listening to Cher’s Half-Breed, among other cultural dislocations. Friday and Saturday at the Hollywood Theatre.

Carla Rossi and her nemesis in "Looking for Tiger Lily." Photo: Chelsea Petrakis

Carla Rossi and her nemesis in “Looking for Tiger Lily.” Photo: Chelsea Petrakis



ArtsWatch links


Musical director Jon Quesenberry (left) and band with Benjamin Tissell in "Fly by Night." Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer

Musical director Jon Quesenberry (left) and band with Benjamin Tissell in “Fly by Night.” Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer

Broadway Rose takes flight. Christa Morletti McIntyre reviews Broadway Rose’s dark comedy musical Fly by Night, a “potent mix of youthful optimism and struggle.”

Snow Queen 4: fashioning fantasy from fabric. Bob Keefer’s continuing series on the making of a new story ballet at Eugene Ballet focuses in this episode on costume designer Jonna Hayden and her path to creating The Snow Queen’s sixty new costumes.

Political theater and baby carrots. A.L. Adams watches the first Clinton/Trump presidential debate with a rowdy theater crowd at Hand2Mouth. At least the snacks were good.

Evergreen artistry: Brian Cutean on disk, on air, onstage. Mitch Ritter takes in the protean Eugene musician’s recent show at The Old Church in Portland and considers his many platforms, including his new CD The Sound of Photosynthesis.

Three dancemakers look back on TBA. In her latest DanceWatch Weekly, Jamuna Chiarini invites Portland choreographers Tracy Broyles, Jim McGinn, and Pepper Pepper to look back on PICA’s recently completed TBA festival and respond to what they saw.

Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. In Bag&Baggage’s hybrid stage version of The Graduate, Brett Campbell discovers a steely Mrs. Robinson who is “a fierce, tragic heroine who’s ahead of her time.”

Cappella Romana: Byzantium and beyond. Brett Campbell looks at the critically lauded Portland choir’s first 25 years and its sound that is rooted in ancient Greek and Roman tradition but also moves considerably beyond: “Maybe they should have called it Roam-ana.”

At Upfor, the Soul of Black Art. We take a look at Upfor Gallery’s smart and sophisticated show, curated by collector John Goodwin, that concocts “a vibrant mix of paintings, prints, photographs, video, and mixed-media works that probe the black American experience from inside and out, in highly personal and broadly cultural terms.”

Marion Post-Wolcott, "Negro Man Climbing the Stairs to a Movie Theatre, Belzoni, Mississippi," 1939, 18 x 19.5 inches, collection of John Goodwin and Michael-Jay Robinson.

Marion Post-Wolcott, “Negro Man Climbing the Stairs to a Movie Theatre, Belzoni, Mississippi,” 1939, 18 x 19.5 inches, collection of John Goodwin and Michael-Jay Robinson.



About ArtsWatch Weekly

We send a letter like this once a week to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.


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