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Taking Kit Off Never Fails to Inspire (And Horrify)

November 10, 2009

Off to the opera I toddled tonight to see the ENO’s odd combination of Bartok’s rendition of the Bluebeard legend and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The former is extremely sinister and concerns an oddly camp (in this case) old man with a blue beard (not in this case) who hoards women and their children in his castle, Fritzl style. The latter is a manic dance piece, originally depicting a young woman dancing herself to death in front of a group of old men so that spring can commence.

Both acts involved private parts.  In Blue Beard, women’s – and the suggestion of Monsieur Beard’s that mercifully stopped short at his white y fronts – and in Rite, men. Lots of them.

However one can’t help but notice how the naked woman still rules the creative- and spectator’s- imagination. The busty Judith, Blue Beard’s final conquest, ends up on the floor, legs open, in a circle with the other wives with their legs also open and bloody, and a knife heading towards her genitalia, courtesy of Blue Beard. The women in front of me started tittering – I think it was a nervous reaction. It was, in fact, a haunting and certainly not amusing scene, as the suggestion of group knife rape surely is not, even in a kitschly rendered opera.

In Rite, 50 young men get naked, bounce their bits around a bit as they dance, then don dresses. Two women end up dead or limp in their midst, but the triumphant third woman takes off her clothes too and – sixpack rippling – dances authoratatively over the men.

Seems that in the performance arts, the best way to show power and drama is still through good old fashioned stripping down. It’s certainly effective- unlike usual, my attention barely wondered.

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