First produced twenty-two years ago, Robert LePage's production of two one-act operas, Bela Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
and Arnold Schonberg's Erwartung
, makes a glorious return to the COC. For those who haven't seen it, suffice to say there are plenty of visual surprises. For those who have, what's immediately obvious is that the stage presentation now takes its rightful place alongside the music it once unintentionally upstaged. Bartok's richly layered score glows under the baton of maestro Johannes Debus. Bass Dan Relyea gives a superb Bluebeard, fearsome and compelling, as he unveils the horrors of his castle to his determined new bride, Judith, in a glowing portrayal by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova. Strange to think that performances of Schonberg operas were once almost as rare as they were overly earnest. Thankfully, our twentieth-century ears no longer treat modern works as a strange and difficult adjunct to classical music, but as an extended tonal range on a very full palette. With a new generation of performers and singers like mezzo Krisztina Szabó, who sings the role of the psychologically unbalanced Woman in Erwartung
with stunning beauty and agility, these works are now a great pleasure to hear as well as to see. Kudos to the Canadian Opera Company.