Five reasons to go see La Monnaie’s Bluebeard’s Castle & The Miraculous Mandarin

Béla Bartók’s one-act opera Bluebeard’s Castle and ballet The Miraculous Mandarin are coming to La Monnaie for a seven-round tour – starting next Friday the 8th of June -, rounding off this season’s passionate programme. Renowned for the Hungarian composer and musicologist’s versatile magnificence, we select five reasons why La Monnaie‘s next production is unmissable.

One of Hungary’s greatest cultural exports, Béla Bartók’s compositions continue to entrance audiences to this day. With an impressive career in ethnomusicology, Bartók’s foundational tastes flow into his pieces with effortless beauty, in particular his obsession with folk music. Given the grandiosity of Bartók’s musical language, La Monnaie’s music director Alain Altinoglu has risen to the occasion. This double bill is sure to receive a similar critical acclaim as from his previous performances, including Dialogues des Carmélites and LohengrinMusic to our ears.

Beyond the technical excellence of Bartók’s creations, you can savour the nostalgia of a classic fairytale twisted with a modern touch. For those unfamiliar with the dark myth of Bluebeard, you’re in for a treat, as Bartók sought inspiration from the indulgent mysterious quality of fellow Hungarian Béla Balázs’ poetic verses. Bartók’s translation of his allegorical charge into a multi-disciplinary experience is truly a wonder to behold. Not to mention, the ballet-cum-pantomine The Miraculous Mandarin‘s effortless fusion of subjective realism within the framework of erotic fantasy. You have to see it to believe it.

Regardless of the aural synchronicity of Bartók’s masterpieces, La Monnaie’s meticulous focus on design creates an emotive impact. Esteemed ex-fashion designer and Belgium-local Christophe Coppens applied his attention to detail to the staging concept of both pieces. Given the awe-inspiring vision executed in his operatic debut Foxie! we can only imagine the tricks he has up his sleeve for these overwhelming performances. Taking things further, Coppens’ set design is as monumental as it is all-encompassing. We won’t give too much away, but with a three-floor structure and Hieronymos Bosch’s out-of-this-world surrealism as a founding element, expect hellishly great things.

Historically-speaking, Bluebeard’s Castle and The Miraculous Mandarin are politically charged pieces in their own right. Rebellion is deeply embedded within Bartók’s DNA, so it’s only fitting they be showcased 50 years on from the infamous May 68 riots. Immoral, unplayable and mercilessly censored – who could resist?

C. De Keersmaecker (c)

Above all, this is La Monnaie’s last opera production of this season. Finishing off on a high between The Miraculous Mandarin’s foreboding portrayal of the underbelly of 20th century society and Bluebeard’s Castle’s complex symbolism, there’s something for all tastes – all tied together with La Monnaie’s larger-than-life orchestra, lyrical purity and fantastic production. Two birds, one stone.

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