The Scottish Opera returned to the Festival Theatre with two exciting new productions, co-produced with Vanishing Point. Two approximately one-hour shows, The 8Th Door and Bluebeard’s Castle, were brought to the stage accompanied by beautiful music, visuals and performances.
Lliam Paterson and Matthew Lenton’s The 8th Door was commissioned specially for this tour by the Scottish Opera and is both a theatrical and operatic triumph. The music was extremely beautiful, a real testament to Paterson’s talent. It operated as a play-script to tell the story of a beautiful woman and her partner, possibly a nod to the characters of Judith and Bluebeard which the Bluebeard’s Castle centres around. Vanishing Point employs a variety of innovative tech to help tell the story creating a beautiful visionary masterpiece for the audience to watch. The actors are videoed and projected and enlarged onto screens behind them allowing us to scrutinise their every reaction and emotion. It is extremely effective to have to concentrate on the screens to know what is happening as the actors sit with their backs to the audience and so we focus on the mute video and the beautiful music to tell us the story.
This co-production brings the Scottish Opera into a more modern world of theatre and has provided a lot of excitement in the theatre world as to the new direction the company is taking. This production made opera more accessible to a wider audience, as well as enticing a younger generation of theatregoers to make the step to attending an opera production. I overheard one dedicated couple who were proud supporters of the Scottish Opera who didn’t necessarily appreciate The 8th Door as an opera, instead, preferring the more classical Bluebeard’s Castle. I found it disheartening that fond opera-goers may not have welcomed the decision by the Scottish Opera to attempt to open up the genre to a greater audience of people. Personally, as this review will show, the production of The 8th Door provided a whole wealth of opportunities for the company to investigate and develop for further productions perhaps bridging the gap between classical and contemporary a little more smoothly than this show. Incorporating greater theatricality into the opera made it more entertaining to watch for those who appreciate opera but need greater visuals on stage to remain interested.
Bluebeard’s Castle written by Bartok could be considered the classic of the two. First performed in 1918 it is one of the most psychologically thrilling operas that I have encountered, playing on the gruesome story of Bluebeard. The opera counts on the audience’s desire to see the car crash of a story play out and, also, emphasises Judith’s self-destructive nature and the very human characteristic to push the boundaries and know everything, even if it is at their own jeopardy. The set for Bluebeard’s Castle was stupendous, with a little quirk added to bring each door to life. A personal favourite was the treasure room where gold glitter poured from the rafters coating the stage in a bath of gold. The room as well deconstructed halfway through the show to symbolise the relationship between Judith and Bluebeard collapsing.
The whole production was extremely well presented: the company worked very hard to ensure the contemporary new show worked alongside the classic older established show. The touch to use Hungarian in both productions was appreciated as well as the overlapping themes. The visuals created by the film and projection in The 8th Door created a feeling of suspense in the audience which was then heightened by Bluebeard’s Castle. It was a remarkable production by the Scottish Opera and I left eager to share with friends the innovative and exciting direction the company was taking. I think it’s both important and vital to bring opera as a genre into the modern world to ensure there are people who will continue to see it and keep it alive and flourishing.