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    Unforgettable opera double-bill on the big screen

    Opera lovers are in for a double treat with the screening of Tchaikovsky's lyrical fairy tale Iolanta and Bartók's haunting psychological thriller Bluebeard's Castle from 21 March at Cinema Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor cinemas countrywide for limited screenings.

    It's an ultimate high for opera buffs, offering the best that opera has to offer from the esteemed Metropolitan Opera, with acclaimed Polish film director Mariusz Trelinski making his highly anticipated Met debut with an exciting new production, inspired by classic noir films of the 1940s.

    Trelinski, a film, theatre, and opera director made his opera debut in 1999 with an acclaimed production of Puccini's Madam Butterfly at the Polish National Opera and has since directed at the Mariinsky Theatre, Welsh National Opera, the Savonlinna Opera Festival, and Teatro Comunale in Bologna.

    Unforgettable opera double-bill on the big screen

    Possessive father

    "Iolanta ends with the girl freeing herself from her possessive father. She experiences great love with her prince-it's a classic happy ending," Trelin´ski explains. "In Bluebeard's Castle, the situation is exactly the opposite. Judith abandons her family, her fiancé, her peaceful existence to come to a suspicious, deadly place. Why would one give up all that is dear and beautiful to enter into such a strange relationship with such a dark figure? What kind of force pushes us to such a confrontation? For me, it is about the intricacies of human sexuality."

    In the case of Iolanta, this dynamic is represented by the mythical King René, who keeps his beautiful blind daughter under lock and key, sheltering her so completely from the outside world that she remains unaware that she suffers from blindness, the concept of sight never having been explained to her. In Bluebeard's Castle, the heroine, Judith, seeks out the mysterious Bluebeard, wilfully entering into a charged relationship with a man who may, or may not, be a murderer. The outcomes of each story are markedly different.

    "Both operas are fairy tales with a tint of fantasy, and such stories usually have a deeper level," says director Trelin´ski. "The thing that fascinated me about these stories was that both looked at the situation of women in the shadow of a very strong, dominant male figure."

    The conductor is Valery Gergiev, who has conducted more than 100 Met performances in a varied repertory, including the company premieres of Prokofiev's The Gambler and War and Peace; Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa; and Shostakovich's The Nose. He made his Met debut in 1994 leading a new production of Verdi's Otello and also conducted new production premieres of The Queen of Spades, Eugene Onegin, Salome, and Boris Godunov. Gergiev is the general director of the Mariinsky Theatre, the artistic director of St Petersburg's White Nights Festival, and the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

    Unforgettable opera double-bill on the big screen


    Tchaikovsky's lyrical fairy tale Iolanta, dealing with the psychological awakening of a blind princess, makes its debut at the Met Opera 123 years after it was composed.

    In recent years, the heroine Iolanta has become one of Anna Netrebko's most acclaimed roles, and this season's Met performances will be her first North American performances of the role. She has sung Iolanta in Baden-Baden, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and in St Petersburg for the opening of the new Mariinsky Opera House, and this summer will sing the role in London, Lucerne, Copenhagen, and Monte Carlo. Iolanta is Netrebko's second Tchaikovsky role with the company: she opened the 2013/14 season as Tatiana in his Eugene Onegin. The Russian soprano made her company debut in 2002 as Natasha in the Met premiere of Prokofiev's War and Peace and has since sung 15 more roles at the Met, including starring roles in the recent new production premieres of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, Don Pasquale, and L'Elisir d'Amore and Massenet's Manon. Earlier this season, she made an acclaimed Met role debut as Verdi's Lady Macbeth.

    Polish tenor Piotr Beczala opened the Met's 2013/14 season as Lenski in Eugene Onegin, opposite Netrebko, and returned last winter to sing the Prince in Dvorák's Rusalka. This season marks his first North American performances of Count Tristan Vaudémont, a role he has previously sung at the Salzburg Festival and Baden-Baden Festival. He made his Met debut in 2006 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi's Rigoletto and has since sung the title character in Gounod's Faust; the Chevalier des Grieux in the new production premiere of Manon; Edgardo in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor; Rodolfo in Puccini's La Bohème; and Roméo in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.

    Aleksei Markov has previously sung the role of Robert at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and the Teatro Real in Madrid. He made his Met debut as Andrei Bolkonsky in Prokofiev's War and Peace in 2007 and has since returned to the house as Marcello in La Bohème, Valentin in Faust, Tomsky in Tchaikovksy's Queen of Spades, di Luna in Verdi's Il Trovatore, and Shchelkalov in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. Markov currently sings Germont in Verdi's La Traviata and later this spring will sing Count Anckarström in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera.

    Russian bass Alexei Tanovitski has previously sung the role of René at the White Nights Festival in St Petersburg and the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. He made his Met debut as Frate in Don Carlo in 2010 and sang Gremin in the new production premiere of Eugene Onegin last season opposite Netrebko and Beczala. He has recently sung Ivan Khovansky in Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina at the Mariinsky Theatre and Ramfis in Verdi's Aida at the Teatro Massimo di Palermo.

    Elchin Azizov has previously sung the role of Ibn-Hakia at the Theatre an der Wien and the Bolshoi Theatre, where he is a resident artist. He has recently sung a number of roles with the Bolshoi, including Giorgio Germont in Verdi's La Traviata, the title role in Borodin's Prince Igor, Escamillo in Bizet's Carmen, and Rodrigo in Verdi's Don Carlo. Earlier this season he made his debut with the Montreal Opera in the title role of Verdi's Nabucco.

    Bluebeard's Castle

    Nadja Michael sings the central role of Judith in Bluebeard's Castle, the unwitting victim of the diabolical Bluebeard, her mysterious and menacing new husband, played by Mikhail Petrenko.

    Michael has previously sung the role of Judith at the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw. The German soprano made her Met debut as Verdi's Lady Macbeth in 2012. One of her best-known roles is Strauss' Salome, which she has sung in leading opera houses around the world, including the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; San Francisco Opera; and La Scala. This season she has also sung Emilia Marty in Janácek's The Makropulos Affair at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Salome in São Paulo, and a concert with the Polish National Opera.

    Russian bass Mikhail Petrenko made his Met debut in the 2002 company premiere of War and Peace, singing the roles of Marshal Davout, Bolkonsky's Valet, and Tikhon. His other roles with the company have included Prince Galitsky in last season's new production premiere of Prince Igor, Pistola in Verdi's Falstaff, Hunding in Wagner's Die Walküre, Sparafucile in Rigoletto, and Pimen in the new production premiere of Boris Godunov.

    Unforgettable opera double-bill on the big screen

    Behind the scenes

    The 14 February matinee performance of the opera was filmed for transmission into cinemas worldwide as part of the Met's Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 2000 movie theatres in 70 countries around the world. A bonus for opera fans are exclusive intermission interviews, hosted by Joyce DiDonato, featuring an interview with Iolanta stars Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala, as they step off stage after the performance, as well as with conductor Valery Gergiev. There's also an informative discussion between Bluebeard Castle's director Mariusz Trelinski and stars Nadja Michael and Mikhail Petrenko, led by the Met's GM, Peter Gelb. You can also see a sneak preview of the next transmission in the series, La Donna del Lago (releases in SA on 11 April), including an interview with dynamic tenor Juan Diego Flórez.

    Unforgettable opera double-bill on the big screen

    Each of The Met: Live in HD operas is a glorious production that will be screened exclusively at Cinema Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor theatres countrywide, including: Gateway Nouveau, Durban; V&A Waterfront Nouveau and Ster-Kinekor Blue Route in Cape Town; Ster-Kinekor Garden Route in George; Rosebank Nouveau and Ster-Kinekor Bedford View in Joburg; and at Brooklyn Nouveau, Pretoria.

    The double-bill of Iolanta/Bluebeard's Castle releases on Saturday, 21 March for limited screenings till 2 April. The running time of this production is approximately 3 hours 39 minutes, with one intermission between the two operas.

    For booking information on The Met: Live in HD season, go to or, You can also download the Ster-Kinekor App on any Nokia, Samsung Android, iPhone or Blackberry smart phone for updates, news and to make bookings. Follow on Twitter @nouveaubuzz and on Facebook at Cinema Nouveau. For queries, call Ticketline on 0861 Movies (668 437).

    For more opera and live theatre on the big screen, go to

    About Daniel Dercksen

    Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit
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