© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Opera Abbreviated: Iolanta and Bluebeard’s Castle

Anna Netrebko in the title role of Tchaikovsky's Iolanta
Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera


We have two short operas on the same program for the next Metropolitan Opera Live in HD presentation, Saturday, February 14 at 12:30 pm.


Now then. These may not be the ideal operas for Valentines Day! Or maybe so if you’re weird.

Opera Abbreviated introduces Iolanta and Bluebeard’s Castle.

You can see and hear the Met live in HD in the Columbus area at a number of participating movie theatres. Check out Fantom Events’ website for a full list.

A kekszakallu herceg vara will probably be your first opera sung in Hungarian. In case the original title defeats you, call it Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.

The mythical Bluebeard returns to his castle with Judith, his latest wife. The seven great doors off the castle’s great hall provoke the new bride. What can be behind these doors? Why do the very walls of the castle groan and shudder? Why are the walls damp as if weeping?

The questions are slowly answered, accompanied by Bela Bartok’s huge and glamorous and terrifying orchestral writing.

Bartok was less known for his operas than for his chamber music and his relentless and earthy use of the large orchestra. Duke Bluebeard’s Castle is not for the timid.


Before we encounter Bluebeard and Judith, we met Iolanta. She is a princess in medieval era France. Surrounded by loving attendants and fragrant flowers, she does not realize that she is blind. Her betrothed Raimund loves someone else. His buddy Price Vaudemont falls hard for Iolanta. A cure has been offered for her blindness. The king fears that if the cure fails, Iolanta, realizing she is blind, realizing that she is not of the world around her, will despair. Vaudemont’s love is enough to teach Iolanta colors, fragrances and feelings. The cure works, too.

Iolanta is Tchaikovsky final opera. Why it has been neglected outside Russia for so long is a mystery. It doesn’t need a  huge cast. There’s little chorus. And it is lush, romantic and beautiful. Nobody dies, either.

Anna Netrebko stars as Iolanta and the two operas are conducted by Valery Gergiev. These two Russian artists have become very controversial for their support of Vladimir Putin. The Russian’s government’s actions in Ukraine, along with Putin’s anti-gay legislation has the pickets out in full force. Opening night a man stormed the stage, waving a poster showing Netrebko, Putin and Hitler.


Iolanta is a beautiful opera. We may be in for a bumpy ride from the audience.

Host of Music in Mid-Ohio, Musica Sacra, Opera and More and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra live broadcasts. Christopher also hosts Classical 101 By Request every Friday from 1-3 p.m.