Yesterday morning I walked to the largest and most charming flea-market I have ever imagined. This market is quite near to my apartment and was recently pointed out to me by a friend, quite a brilliant scholar studying here and with wonderfully noble ambitions for constructing a new educational paradigm in the States (which certainly could use it). This place was packed full of the most wonderful antiques you have ever imagined. Old books and films (literally film still on the reel from say the 1920s) were strewn on a football field sized sheet. The furniture was most amazing and then all the clocks, the lamps, and just things. Really wonderful and jam packed.
I thought for sure that would be the highlight of the day. But no! I got an invite to the final dress rehearsal of the new production at Liceu by General Manager Joan Matabosch. I thought it would be fairly closed, but apparently they sell tickets to this and it was sold-out (to gush a bit I got to sit in a reserved VIP section...I don't know what someone told Joan, but I hope no one untells him!). They are doing a double-bill of Janacek's "Diaries of one who disappeared" and Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle". The production was by an avant-guard theatre group called La Fura dels Baus. They have recently gotten into opera. I have seen two of their productions prior to this (the Berlioz "Faust" for Salzburg and a new opera VERY loosely based on "Don Quixote" set centuries in the future for Liceu). These piece were, like many theater turned opera people (like Julie Taymor, though I must admit some are succesful like Adrien Nobel) high on the visual, but without substance behind it (I confess to thinking her Magic Flute pretty and not much more). La Fura productions of opera have seemed gimmicky to me. This however, was absolutely transfixing and transforming.
The Janacek did not win me over to either the piece or the production. But the Bartok...Goodness! It is by far the best production of this incredible piece I have ever seen. It featured Williard White, who as an actor has the natural emptiness the piece demands (unfortunately not what Falstaff demands...), and Katarina Dalayman, who had the just about the perfect anxiety and urgency in her voice. But it was the production! Almost nothing on stage, all with projections. I can't describe it, so amazing. One thing I will say, in the final scene the scrims (there were maybe ten of them projected on in various configurations from both front and back and side, sometimes simultaneously) went up and a great sheet of rain poured down onto the stage. Onto this sheet of rain, I want to say that again, ONTO THIS SHEET OF RAIN the image of Mr. White was projected in huge scale, through which Ms. Dalayman walked to her death. Fantastic! I will provide here a link to photos (I can't seem to save them here - the fourth on is the scene I secribe above) and a video of VERY short clips from earlier La Fura work, with a little touch of "Faust" thrown in at the end.