all art by Professor Richard Nickel
When Bluebeard brings his young, naïve bride, Judith, to his dark and imposing castle, he forbids her from opening any of the 7 closed doors… which of course only entices her more. Menacing secrets lie locked away behind each ominous door, with the story becoming increasingly more suspenseful as Judith defies her husband, eventually opening each door where new rooms filled with new horrors are revealed to her.
Each of the first 6 doors Judith opens also exposes a new Chihuly glass sculpture representing the room. I got to preview these sculptures at Chrysler Hall and it is no overstatement to say they are absolutely breathtaking. Each piece is intense, enthralling, and surprisingly sinister. Highly symbolic, they represent 6 different forbidden rooms in the castle: an armory, domain, treasury, torture chamber, lake of tears, and garden.
The Armory: Represented by tiger lilies and paintbrushes, Chihuly created a stunning work of glass in shades of red and yellow. The entwining tiger lilies stretch up taller than I am and have a seductive quality in their sinuousness.
The Domain: Bluebeard’s domain is represented by herons, marlins, and neo reeds in shades of blue and purple. This is the piece I was most mesmerized by. It has a gorgeous chaotic quality to its complexity. All the elements entwine together in an explosion of vibrancy. I stared transfixed long enough I think I made the representatives a bit nervous.
The Treasury: Chihuly used golden clubs to represent the treasury. This piece reminds me of crystals you see growing in caves or in those science kits kids have. The golden spikes seem to glow from within and perfectly represent the wealth in Bluebeard’s treasury.
The Torture Chamber: By far the simplest, the torture chamber is also the most sinister. Foreboding red spears and spikes stand over 6 feet tall. Never has something so simple been so spine-tingling and chilling to me. It’s truly impressive how dark and imposing this piece is!
The Lake of Tears: Seen in most of the promo materials, this piece is comprised of 3 long tear drops falling from the top of the installation, with red balls pooled around the floor. I wish everyone could walk up to it like I did to see just how detailed it is up close. ..the technique to create each texture and subtle mixture of color is amazing.
The Garden: Ferns and trumpet flowers are symbolic of the garden. The yellow and green flowers are light and beautiful and almost mask the atrocities that lie within the room for Judith to discover.
Chihuly glass sculptures have a bit of a signature style. They’re expressive, colorful, and almost seem to explode in shape and movement. I’ve seen his work in the entrance of the MOCA in Virginia Beach and his new installation at the Chrysler Museum of Art, so I expected to be impressed by his talent. What I didn’t expect is just how evocative each piece for Bluebeard’s Castle is! I almost had to grab a thesaurus when editing this article or before talking to people about the pieces because apparently there’s only so many times you can saw awesome or awe-inspiring without sounding like you’re totally unqualified to write about art.
Without spoiling the ending, I will say, just hearing about the final scene gave me goose bumps. I know the term “opera” may discourage some people from attending this event, but that would be a mistake. This is no ordinary opera. With only one act and two singers, the performance is only an hour long. The Virginia Symphony will perform on stage with the cast instead of performing in the pit. Bluebeard promises to be a psychological thriller. I’m definitely intrigued and can’t wait for it to open this weekend.
Bluebeard’s Castle is presented by the Virginia Arts Festival. Co-presented by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Chrysler Museum of Art. At Chrysler Hall. Saturday, April 18th 8:00. Sunday, April 19th, 8:00. Tickets: $20-$125. For more, click here.