Over 50 years since the legendary production by Walter Felsenstein and in time for the anniversary year, Stefan Herheim – the Norwegian wizard of the theatre who most recently enchanted Berlin’s audiences with his crazy and opulent Xerxes – presents his version of what might be Offenbach’s most combative operetta. With Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke in the title role, one of the most versatile character tenors of our age will give his début at the Komische Oper Berlin.
Nothing but problems with women – thanks to the complete stupidity of his son, King Bobèche is desperately searching for his banished daughter in order to secure the succession to his throne. The shepherdess Fleurette is deemed to be enough like his daughter to do the trick, and is quickly declared to be Hermia and married off to Saphir, the dream son-in-law, at the royal castle. Bluebeard is also in need of a woman: already tired of wife number five, he sends his henchman Popolani, an alchemist, to search for a suitable successor, as he has done so many times before. Boulotte, a sturdy peasant woman, does not let the notorious womaniser intimidate her – she’s more concerned about the interminable tedium she’ll suffer at Popolani’s side, who for his own ends has sent her predecessors to their not-so-eternal rest. Led by Boulotte, Bluebeard’s former wives prepare to revolt! So much woman power will wipe the smirk from the face of even the evillest villain – or maybe put it there in the first place?!
The Barbe-bleue (Bluebeard) of this fairytale can be etymologically traced to the old French word Barbeu (werewolf), who might in turn reveal himself as a sheep in wolf’s clothing. The success of Bluebeard in decadent Paris during the dawning of the second imperial era is rooted in precisely this interplay between horror and comedy – one laughs at one’s own inadequacy as if one had already internalised Karl Kraus’ dictum: »Love and art do not embrace what is beautiful but what is made beautiful by this embrace.«