Michael Mayes and Susan Bullock in Bluebeard’s Castle (photos by: Mihaela Bodlovic for Theatre of Sound, London, U.K.)
(September 2022)—The Atlanta Opera – “one of the most exciting opera companies in America” (Opera Wire) – opens its 2022-23 season with the U.S. premiere of a new production of Bartók’s one-act chamber opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, from England’s Theatre of Sound (Oct 7–9). Led by its creators, director Daisy Evans and conductor Stephen Higgins, both making their Atlanta Opera debuts, the production reimagines the Bluebeard story from a woman’s perspective and through the lens of one of the most devastating and increasingly common features of modern life: the descent of a loved one into dementia. Baritone Michael Mayes – an Atlanta Opera favorite praised by the Wall Street Journal after a performance as Joseph De Rocher in Dead Man Walking as “by far the best singer and most convincing actor in the cast” – and British Wagnerian soprano Susan Bullock – whom Opera magazine finds “always profoundly musical,” saying “[she] brings tears to one’s eyes with a tenderness of phrasing that seems second nature to her” – reprise the roles of Bluebeard and Judith that they created for the world premiere in London last fall. The Atlanta Opera’s mainstage season comprises productions of Wagner’s monumental Das Rheingold, in a new production by Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General and Artistic Director Tomer ZvulunPuccini’s Madama Butterfly; a film-noir reimagining of Mozart’s Don Giovanni; and a new staging of Bernstein’s Candide. All productions will be filmed for release on The Atlanta Opera’s Spotlight Media platform.
Presented in partnership with Kennesaw State University’s School of MusicBluebeard’s Castle is presented as part of The Atlanta Opera’s Discoveries Series and will be staged at the Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center and performed in English, in a translation by Evans. Transforming this Gothic tale of horror into one of a husband and wife living with dementia, as Evans explains, is partially about accepting the implications of the score. As she said in an interview with Opera Today:
“The music is just too beautiful – it expresses the psychologies of the protagonists, it’s about love and loss and emotion. … So many productions present Bluebeard simply as a murderer of young women, but I can’t reconcile the music to this characterization.”
In the Theatre of Sound production, Bluebeard’s previous three wives become aspects of Judith’s past that she has progressively lost with her declining memories, and the seven doors of the traditional story have become a single trunk containing mementos of that disappearing past. For a world in which dementia has left its mark on so many lives, the loss represented by the trunk’s contents is every bit as horrifying as the progressively grisly revelations of the traditional tale. The Guardian calls the Theatre of Sound interpretation “a devastating piece of theatre.”
The Atlanta Opera Discoveries Series, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in the 2023-24 season, has been widely recognized for presenting new works, new ideas and fresh perspectives. As part of the company’s efforts to bring opera to new audiences across the Atlanta metro area, these productions have been performed in alternative venues such as Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Le Maison Rouge and Pullman Yards as well as smaller traditional theaters throughout the metro area. Zvulun explains:
“At The Atlanta Opera, we are focused on two strategic paths: core product and innovation. This means that we spend a lot of time planning what will strengthen our core mission –transformational mainstage experiences – while also allocating resources to exploring and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in less traditional areas of the art form. The Discoveries series allows us to explore new venues, new partnerships and new repertoire. As opera evolves and our storytelling embraces technology, podcasts, film and other mediums of expression, we believe that this core/explore principle will serve us and the art form well artistically.” 
About The Atlanta Opera
The Atlanta Opera’s mission is to build the major international opera company that Atlanta deserves, while reimagining what opera can be. Founded in 1979, the company works with world-renowned singers, conductors, directors, and designers who seek to enhance the art form. Under the leadership of internationally recognized stage director and Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. General & Artistic Director Tomer Zvulun, The Atlanta Opera expanded from three to four mainstage productions at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and launched the acclaimed Discoveries series. In recent years, the company has been named among the “Best of 2015” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been nominated for a 2016 International Opera Award, and won ArtsATL’s 2019 Luminary Award for Community Engagement in recognition of its successful Veterans Program in partnership with the Home Depot Foundation. In addition, The Atlanta Opera was featured in a 2018 Harvard Business School case study about successful organizational growth, and Zvulun presented a TEDx Talk at Emory University titled “The Ambidextrous Opera Company, or Opera in the Age of iPhones.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Atlanta Opera was one of the only companies in the world to create a full, alternative season, consisting of no less than 40 live performances in two different outdoor venues, including a revolutionary custom-designed circus tent. The fundraising goal was tripled, and four new productions were created, each of which employed 150 cast, crew and staff. The critically acclaimed productions and concerts were streamed in HD on the newly created streaming platform “Spotlight Media,” allowing The Atlanta Opera to reach a global audience. National media coverage of the “pandemic season” included features in the Wall Street Journal and on PBS Newshour. For more information, visit atlantaopera.org.