6 operas to creep you outHumour
Opera’s great for a lot of reasons, but here’s the one we love the most: no matter what kind of release you need, you can get it, 110%, from an opera. Feel like something where good triumphs over evil? Settle in with The Magic Flute. Need a good weep? Take your pick of La bohème or Madama Butterfly.
Feel like hearing your ghost stories sung? Fear not. We’ve got 6 operas to to satisfy your craving for creepy…
The obvious choice, really. There’s the creepy castle; the weird, cold relationship between Bluebeard and his new bride; the secret rooms; the clear intimacy issues; the dead ex-wives. The music, though, is the scariest thing about Bartòk’s opera; the score sounds like something Bernard Herrmann would have written for a Hitchcock film, and it seems to waver unnaturally between uncomfortably soft and impossibly loud. Kind of like a scary, abusive husband.
For a short taste, check out this trailer for Bluebeard’s Castle at Los Angeles Opera in 2014. Otherwise, get sucked in with the Leslie Megahey’s 1988 made-for-TV-movie version, where Ádám Fischer conducts Robert Lloyd and Elizabeth Laurence as Bluebeard and Judith.
The Turn of the Screw
Haunted houses, troubled children, ghost sightings (or hallucinations, both of which are bad), questionable child-elder relationships, mental health red flags; Henry James was a man who knew creepy. Whatever the Governess and the two children in her care experience, Britten’s score is like a technicolour version of it; we hear the moments of fear, the voices of the natural and the supernatural world, and still the music doesn’t give any hints as to what parts of the story are true, which narrative to trust.
It’s not exactly a sneak-up-and-say-boo kind of ghost story, but the show has this way of accumulating unease and restlessness. The music evokes a world where everyone is just a little bit…off, and it’s creepy as #&%$.
Watch for yourself, in this 2005 film version of The Turn of the Screw by Katie Mitchell, with Mark Padmore as Quint, and Lisa Milne as the Governess.
Having just seen Barrie Kosky’s insane production at the Royal Opera House, it seems clear that for those folks with a distaste for clowns may get some serious nightmares from Shostakovich’s opera. The satire throughout The Nose - the story of a man who wakes up without his nose, and proceeds to go and find it - comes out in the score like sick circus music, like being at a party on the wrong drugs. It’s overstimulating, nonsensical, chaotic, like being in one of those “for fun” haunted houses (which are zero fun at all, if you ask us).
Salome, Elektra, & Lulu
Three great operas, three eerie scores, and three women to put you ill at ease. These ladies all appear to have a single desire (Salome, for John the Baptist’s head; Elektra, to avenge her late father, and Lulu, to survive), and yet they all live in a world where everything seems askew, and where people react to crisis in strange ways. Lulu sees her three husbands die with relative calmness, Salome is willing to strip for her stepfather, and Elektra dances when the right people are murdered.
There’s something freaky about characters who have no behavioural limits; it doesn’t matter to them that they are perceived as crazy or slutty or sick. Maybe there’s some latent sexism in this statement, but those qualities become much scarier in women.
Because she’s our favourite, and because we’re excited about seeing William Kentridge’s production at English National Opera starting November 9, here’s a taste of Berg’s Lulu at the 2010 Salzburg Festival, directed by Vera Nemirova and starring Patricia Petibon.
What are your favourite scary operas? Let us know in the comments below!