Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Bluebeard’s Castle: The Opera

Agnes Zwierko and Martin Gurbal’ as Judit and Bluebeard in fragments of DUKE BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE 2004

For those of you who may want to hear the music composed by Bela Bartok for Bluebeard’s Castle, I found this one from 2004. Musically, I feel this is the best. the revolving churn of the orchestra, and the dark voices singing in that wonderfully weird language, Hungarian, conjure up an atmosphere of dread. The sets have an woodsy Grimm’s fairy tale quality.

I think you must agree that Agnes Zweirko’s singing is spine chilling!

The extra videos of this opera are worth watching too and are more cinematic. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Here is the last scene of the libretto when Judit opens the seventh door. It has been translated into English form Hungarian by Boosey and Hawkes

JUDIT
(She frees herself from his embrace.)
Open the seventh and last door!
(He remains silent.)
I have guessed your secret, Bluebeard.
I can guess what you are hiding.
Bloodstain on your warrior’s weapons,
Blood upon your crown of glory.
Red the soil around your flowers.
Red the shade your cloud was throwing.
Now I know it all, oh, Bluebeard,
Know whose weeping filled your white lake.
All your former wives have suffer’d,
Suffer’d murder, brutal, bloody.
Ah, those rumours, truthful rumours!

BLUEBEARD
Judith!

JUDITH
Truthful, truthful!
I must prove them, ev’ry detail.
Open for me the last of your doorways!

BLUEBEARD
Take it, take it. Here’s the seventh and last key.
(Judith stands rigid, gazing at him. She does not put out her hand for the key.)
Open now the door and see them.
All my former wives await thee.
(Far a while she stands motionless then she takes the key with a faltering hand, and goes, her body swaying slightly, to the Seventh Door. When the lock snaps the Fifth and Sixth Doors swing to with a gentle sighing sound. It becomes much darker. Only the opposite four open doorways illuminate the hall with their beams of coloured light.
And now the Seventh Door opens and a long, tapering beam of silvery moonshine reaches out from the aperture and bathes the faces of Judith and Bluebeard in its silvery light.)
Hearts that I have loved and cherished!
See, my former loves, sweet Judith.

JUDITH
(shrinks back astounded and horrified)
Living, breathing. They live here!
(Through the Seventh Door his former wives come forth. They are three in number. They wear crowns on their heads and their bodies are ablaze with priceless gems. Pale of face but with proud and haughty gait they step forward one after the other, and stand before Bluebeard who sinks to his knees in homage.)

BLUEBEARD
(As though in a trance he stretches out his arms to them.)
Radiant, royal! Matchless beauty!
They shall ever live immortal.
They have gathered all my riches.
They have bled to feed my flowers.
Yea, they have enlarged my kingdom.
All is theirs now, all my treasures.

JUDITH
(She stands with the others so as to make the fourth in the line, looks broken in spirit and afraid.)
Dazzling beauty past believing.
Oh, compared with these I’m nothing.

BLUEBEARD
(rises to his feet and whispers intently to Judith)
The first I found at daybreak,
Crimson, fragrant early morning.
Hers is now the swelling sunrise.
Hers its cool and coloured mantle,
Hers its gleaming crown of silver,
Hers the dawn of ev’ry new day.

JUDITH
Ah, she’s richer far than I am!
(The first wife slowly returns whence she came.)

BLUEBEARD
The second one I found at noon,
Silent, flaming, golden-haired noon.
Hers is ev’ry noon hereafter.
Hers their heavy burning mantle.
Hers their golden crown of glory.
Hers the blaze of ev’ry midday.

JUDITH
Ah, she’s fairer far than I am!
(The second wife goes back through the door.)

BLUEBEARD
The third I found at evening.
Quiet, languid, sombre twilight.
Hers is each returning sunset.
Hers that grave and umber mantle.
Hers is ev’ry solemn sunset.

JUDITH
Fairer, richer far than I am!
(The third wife returns.)
(Far a long time Bluebeard stands confronting Judith in silence. They gaze into each other’s eyes. The Fourth Door closes slowly.)

BLUEBEARD
The fourth I found at midnight.

JUDITH
No more, no more, Bluebeard, no more.

BLUEBEARD
Starry ebon-mantled midnight.

JUDITH
No more, no more, I am still here.

BLUEBEARD
Thy pale face was all a-glimmer.
Splendid was thy silky brown hair.
Ev’ry night is thine hereafter.
(He goes to the Third Door and brings forth the crown, cloak and jewels, that Judith had placed on the threshold. The Third Door closes. He lays the cloak over Judith’s shoulders .)
Thine is now the starry mantle.

JUDITH
Bluebeard, Bluebeard, spare me, spare me.

BLUEBEARD
(He places the crown on her head.)
Thine is now the crown of diamonds.

JUDITH
Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

BLUEBEARD
(He hangs the jewels round her neck.)
Thine is the wealth of my kingdom.

JUDITH
Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

BLUEBEARD
Thou art lovely, passing lovely,
Thou art queen of all my women,
My best and fairest!
(They gaze into each other’s eyes. Bowed down by the weight of the cloak, her head dropping, Judith goes the way of the other women, walking along the beam of moonlight toward the Seventh Door. She enters, and it closes after her.)
Henceforth all shall be darkness,
Darkness, darkness.
(The stage is slowly plunged into total darkness, blotting Bluebeard from sight.)

END

© 1952 Boosey and Hawkes

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