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Press Release: Never before performed in the UK, Pina Bausch’s early masterpiece Bluebeard

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Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Bluebeard. While Listening to a Tape Recording of Béla Bartók's Opera, “Duke Bluebeard's Castle”
Sadler’s Wells, EC1R 4TN 
Wednesday 12 - Saturday 15 February 2020
Performances at 7:30pm
Tickets price £15 - £75

Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com



Staged for the first time in over 29 years and receiving its UK premiere is Pina Bausch’s early monumental masterpiece Bluebeard. While Listening to a Tape Recording of Béla Bartók's Opera, “Duke Bluebeard's Castle” from Sadler’s Wells International Associate Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Following eight performances at Opera House Wuppertal in January/ February 2020, the acclaimed production comes to Sadler’s Wells from Wednesday 12 - Saturday 15 February. 


The work first premiered in 1977 and was presented in 12 cities until the mid 90’s, including Cologne, Los Angeles, Venice, Paris and Tokyo. 


In Bartók’s Bluebeard, character Judith arrives at Duke Bluebeard’s castle where she is given a set of keys to open seven doors. Behind each door she discovers a torture chamber, weapons, a treasure chamber, a bloody garden, an enormous kingdom and a sea of tears. The seventh room, which Bluebeard opens at Judith’s insistence, contains murdered bodies of the Duke’s former wives. Judith acknowledges the fate awaiting her, surrenders herself and lets herself be dressed and crowned and goes calmly to meet her end.

Bausch uses Bartók's Opera as a world of direct images, focussing on the hopeless lack of understanding between man and woman.

The piece counts among Bausch’s most radical and uncompromising works, breaking with any form of conventional dance aesthetic. A brave experiment combining elements from different genres, it is a disturbing, and at the same time, a moving balancing act across various forms of love, tenderness and violence. 

43 years after its world premiere, the new restaging is led by rehearsal directors Helena Pikon and Barbara Kaufmann as well as original cast members Jan Minarik and Beatrice Libonati. 

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch is a Sadler’s Wells International Associate Company


Listing information:
Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch
Bluebeard. While Listening to a Tape Recording of Béla Bartók's Opera, “Duke Bluebeard's Castle”
Sadler’s Wells, EC1R 4TN 
Wednesday 12 - Saturday 15 February
Performances at 7:30pm

Tickets: £15 - £75
Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 or www.sadlerswells.com

Notes to Editors

About Sadler’s Wells

Sadler's Wells is a world-leading creative organisation dedicated to dance in all its forms. With over three centuries of theatrical heritage and a year-round programme of performances and learning activities, it is the place where artists come together to create dance, and where people of all backgrounds come to experience it – to take part, learn, experiment and be inspired.


Audiences of over half a million come to its London theatres each year, with many more enjoying its touring productions at venues across the UK and around the world, and accessing its content through digital channels.

Sadler's Wells commissions, produces and presents more new dance work than any other theatre in the world, embracing the popular and the unknown. Since 2005, it has helped to bring over 160 new dance works to the stage, many of them involving its 16 Associate Artists, three Resident Companies and four Associate Companies – the most exciting talents working in dance today.


It also nurtures the next generation of talent through research and development, running the National Youth Dance Company and a range of programmes including Wild Card, New Wave Associates, Open Art Surgery and Summer University. Sadler's Wells' learning and engagement activities reach over 25,000 annually through programmes that take dance out into the community and invite communities into the theatre. Projects include community productions and the renowned Company of Elders, its resident over-60s performance group, while events range from pre and post-show talks with dance artists to classes, workshops and assisted performances.


Located in Islington, north London, the current building is the sixth to have stood on site since entrepreneur Richard Sadler first established the theatre in 1683. The venue has played an illustrious role in the history of theatre ever since, with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Opera having all started at Sadler's Wells.


About Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch 

Pina Bausch wrote dance history. She not only founded the world-famous company in Wuppertal, she shaped a whole genre – dance theatre – and influenced countless other artists, choreographers and directors worldwide who credit her and her work. For this she received a great many prizes, such as the German Dance Prize, Venice’s Golden Lion and the Kyoto Prize. When she first arrived in Wuppertal in 1973, no-one guessed she would reinvent modern dance there. The young dancer and choreographer (1940-2009) took over the ballet company at the Wuppertaler Bühnen (the combined municipal theatres) and soon renamed it the Tanztheater Wuppertal (‘Wuppertal dance theatre’), because that was her goal: to unite dance and theatre.


Pina Bausch enriched dance. She added speech, acting and singing to it, and influences from art-forms of the whole world later. In the process she created a new dance language which she took to countless countries as a cultural ambassador, a language understood everywhere, being timeless and steeped in a profound humanity. She made forty-six works, and even decades after their creation they move us, stir us, touch a nerve. Many of the works are still in the company’s repertoire, ten years after its founder’s death, and the company maintains and preserves this heritage with great devotion, care and energy.


Her pieces often describe very everyday matters. Human beings are always at the centre, with all their hopes, fears and uncertainties. Pina Bausch homed in on her themes by questioning the dancers. In scenes of complex intimacy between men and women she often showed how people experience speechlessness, exploitation, humiliation and addiction.

With Viktor (1986) the era of the co-productions began. Right up to her death Pina Bausch worked with theatres and institutions in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, India, the USA, Argentina, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, gaining inspiration from these countries and cultures.


With Pina Bausch the dancers always took centre stage. Every dancer brings their personality to the work. There are currently thirty-four dancers, from seventeen different countries. Three generations work on the pieces together; the older dancers pass their roles on to the younger dancers, sharing the experience inscribed in their bodies – over decades in some cases. New pieces by other choreographers are gently expanding the repertoire and responding to Pina Bausch’s legacy; in 2018 it was Alan Lucien Øyen and Dimitris Papaioannou, and they will be followed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Richard Siegal, Helena Waldmann, Monika Gintersdorfer and Rainer Behr.


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Well that sounds like a barrel of laughs.


I would actually like to see this in theory, since I love some Pina Bausch; but I've also hated some of her work, and I suspect this might fall into the latter category (though who knows). So in practice I won't be booking for it. It makes Mayerling sound like a Mills and Boon romance.

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On 09/12/2019 at 12:11, Jan McNulty said:

I saw the opera as part of a double bill in Budapest many years ago ... I suspect I won't be booking for this either!

I saw a concert version of it at the Proms. It was very interesting musically but not exactly fun. I think I will pass on this one.

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I'll be going because I'll take what Pina Bausch I can get. Tickets sales are strong, so anyone dithering (as I was until last week) would probably do well to decide fairly soon.


As for the opera - Bryn Terfel will be performing in it with WNO in June in Cardiff and July at ROH, so it's looking like a very Bluebeard-y year for me!

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