Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle already bursts with imagery thanks to its fantastic story.
In this latest production the Philharmonia attempt to squeeze yet more out of the one-act opera with a video installation by Nick Hillel.
As the duke’s new bride Judith succumbs to curiosity and insists on opening the castle’s seven doors, projections flood the multi-sided screen behind the orchestra.
Hillel’s visuals, such as twisting ropes for the torture chamber and budding flowers at the garden, enhanced the experience more than Bill Viola’s equivalent contribution to Tristan und Isolde last year.
But it was only at the appearance of Bluebeard’s ghostly wives where the images magnified the macabre atmosphere. Elsewhere they achieved less than Bartok’s own technicolour score.
But musically it was excellent. Michelle DeYoung dealt nimbly with Judith’s declamatory lines.
John Tomlinson’s Hungarian sounded wonderful, and, shrouded in his cloak, was every inch the mysterious, tortured duke.
Esa-Pekka Salonen navigated clearly through the work’s abounding details, and the orchestra played well for him, particularly the phalanx of strings.
Earlier, Debussy’s Prelude a l’Apres-midi d’un Faune lacked intoxication, and a messy performance of Janácek’s Sinfonietta left little wonder where the evening’s focus was.
Rating * * * *