Bartok Duke Bluebeard's Castle / Stravinsky The Rite of Spring, English National Opera, London Coliseum - Reviews - Classical - The Independent

Bartok Duke Bluebeard's Castle / Stravinsky The Rite of Spring, English National Opera, London Coliseum

5.00

Nature and nurture - and all the dark and unexpected places in between. Some - Duke Bluebeard's cellar - you may never want to return to; others might invoke smiles, even laughter. English National Opera's audacious double-bill turns expectation on its head and springs so many surprises that to write about it at all - and it isn't an easy event to capture in words - runs the risk of giving the entire game-plan away. So stop reading now if you want to keep that element of surprise intact and know that the five-star rating has as much to do with vision as accomplishment. It isn't a perfect evening - the dance half is controversial to say the least - but you come out of each "event" feeling, well, just about everything.

First to applaud is the astonishing achievement of Edward Gardner and the ENO Orchestra. To play both of these highly demanding and multi-faceted scores in a single evening demands stamina and artistry of a very high order. Gardner elucidates them with great precision and beauty and effectively turns the orchestra into the main protagonist of both pieces.



Daniel Kramer's extraordinarily disturbing realisation of Duke Bluebeard's Castle does not flinch from asking "who is Bluebeard?" and what terrible secrets does his dark soul conceal? Kramer wants us to feel the same fascination, the same curiosity that compels Judith, against all rational thinking, to pass through the ordinary suburban door into the ordinary terraced house Bluebeard calls his "castle" and walk into unimaginable darkness. "I will conquer all your sadness", she says. But this ordinary little man just keeps asking if she is frightened: he wants to see the fear in her eyes. The first blow is delivered as she unlocks the first door.



At the fifth, his raison d'etre is revealed like a grotesque perversion of wholesome C major and if I say think the Von Trapp family, think Josef Fritzl, your worst fears may just have been realised. It is then a brilliant reversal of the text that reveals Judith's cry of "living, they are living!" to be true when she is confronted with Bluebeard's previous loves. Clive Bayley's courageous portrait of a man stiffened by the fear of intimacy unless he controls it is deeply chilling. Michaela Martens voices the bewildering emotions of Judith's mounting horror with great sensitivity and amplitude. Kramer's final image is definitely not for the faint-hearted.



And then the voices are silenced and brute physicality takes the stage. Michael Keegan-Dolan of the dynamic Irish Dance Theatre, Fabulous Beast, has fashioned his take on Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring from the roots of his own heritage. So while an effigy of the Virgin Mary looks on, he and his earthy dancers invoke the age-old laws of procreation and the flat-capped, baggy-trousered, males that hunt in packs. The women take tea, the oversexed men wait their turn, humping the earth and lighting up another post-coital fag.



Of course, a show like this begs the questions as to how much actual dance you expect from a dance piece - and Keegan-Dolan loves playing both with and against the kinetic rhythmic energy of the music. But there is plenty here in the dying throes of yet another winter of discontent to tilt at convention and challenge traditional perceptions about the nature of masculinity. You'll never look at a bull terrier in quite the same way again. Quite an evening.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week