In the spirit of Bluebeard, I did a spot of kidnapping. Following their mother’s enthusiastic eulogy of Bartok, I took two children to Bluebeard at CSM’s new theatre near King’s Cross. I didn’t know the opera at all, but knew the story. Every year, EPOC collaborates with CSM, whose students design sets and costumes. The opera performance is a promenade. You start in one part of the theatre and move to different rooms/ spaces for each scene. It’s a brilliant idea, and means that operas perhaps not considered ‘child-friendly’ really are, as the atmosphere is less formal and more intimate than conventional performances. Certainly, the (primary school) children I was with were rapt throughout and we had a rather interesting discussion of the meanings of the opera afterwards.
The orchestra was well-represented by pianist Will Carslake, and the two protagonists, Bluebeard and Judith were tremendous. The students had let their imagination go on the scenes, and every one of them worked. Especially good, I thought, were the treasure chamber, the flower garden and the scene where they survey his duchy. This was in the main hall/ thoroughfare of the building, so that there were people going up and down stairs, having cups of tea, and so on – nothing to do with the opera, but who of course made a fascinated audience.
Like last year’s Ring of the Nibelungs, I wish I had been either rich enough to have taken loads of people or organised enough to get them to go, because this really is a special event. If you’ve children (or adults) you want to introduce to opera, there is no better way than this. And for seasoned opera-goers, it’s also a pleasure.
Surely BBC4 (or Channel 4) needs to do a documentary on this – going through the students’ ideas and developing the production – with, of course, a broadcast of the performance afterwards.