Libretto by B. Balázs after his stage ballad with patterns from Maeterlinck’s tale “Ariadne and Bluebeard”
Stage director: Viacheslav Starodubtsev
Stage designer: Zhanna Usacheva
Lighting design: Sergei Skornetskii
Blocking: Sergei Zakharin
Opera soloists: Olga Kolobova, Alexei Zelenkov, Irina Novikova, Gurii Guriev
Duke’s wives: Yulia Berdysheva, Tatiana Skriabina, Marina Tsymbal
For 100th anniversary of the opera’s first night
(Premiered at the Hungarian State Opera House on May 24th 1918)
A mental fight between a young lady and a duke, who keeps a lot of horrifying secrets, represents a clash of two different worlds – Man and Woman, who are trapped in a wake of eternal erotic mutual attraction but still are incapable of either understanding or accepting each other in full measure. The narration is mastered with psychological accuracy, which resembles a thriller movie at some point.
“Bluebeard’s castle” is an outstanding phenomenon in the European musical theatre of XX century. First viewed with a skeptical eye by the majority of the contemporary audience, this opera finally has reached wide recognition around the world.
A symbolic drama full of allegory and innuendo incarnates the ageless subject of solitude and dissociation between people. Musical fabric of the opera is a whole different fascinating world. Impressively colorful, artistically ornamental, sparkling with finest details, it is weaved with plenty of expressive means genuine and even bold in its innovative aspect; Bartok used them to thoroughly depict this quirky, dusky, scenic fantasy background for the action of his opera.
(Taken from http://www.belcanto.ru/boroda.html)
Narrator’s dull and mournful voice goes:
This fable tells of endless sufferings. You must comprehend the meaning of it... Can you see the castle? Does it look familiar? Cognize it now – there is a mystery inside.
A dense veil of darkness and ominous silence enveloped the castle of the Duke Bluebeard. There are no windows, and only a weak trembling gleam pierces this darkness with a squat iron door. It opens slowly to reveal vague and obscure silhouettes of people. There are two of them. One is the owner of this castle, fearsome Duke Bluebeard; he is accompanied by his beloved Judith. With blind confidence the lady nestles tenderly against mighty knight’s shoulder. He may be cursed by all, his name may be hated and feared among the vicinity, she still loves him selflessly - and this is why she ran away with him leaving her father’s house, loved ones and her intended.
Gloomy shadows of the vast chamber gradually give way to seven big black doors coated with iron. What’s hidden behind them? What if one breaks these strong hasps and opens the heavy gates? Maybe the castle will fill up with sunlight and fresh wind? Maybe this will force back the sepulchral cold, deadening darkness, which makes Judith scared and lachrymose? “… Do not look for locks that guard secrets”, - forewarns the Duke. However he gives in to the begging lady in love with him. A bunch of keys clinks in the dark. The first door opens slightly with a mournful groan, reminiscent of a moan - and the purple-red beam rushing inside the room slides along the stone tiles of the castle. The doorway looks like a bloody wound on the castle wall. A terrifying view lays before Judith’s eyes - heavy rusty chains, iron hooks, soul-chilling instruments of torture. “… This is a torture chamber, Judith, my torture chamber” – says the Duke. So the lady asks Bluebeard to open the second door. Maybe it is the one that will let inside the fresh wind and the tender warmth of the sun? Yellowish-orange flecks of light fall at Judith’s feet – the second door is open. Spears, swords, shields, halberds, battle armor sprinkled with gore… “Tis my armoury, Judith.” – goes knight’s voice. “Thou art very strong and mighty – whispers the girl - Oh, but cruel art thou, Bluebeard!” The castle’s dome lights up with blinding golden radiance – the third door has opened wide. Mounts of treasures lay before Judith’s dazed vision, bars of gold sparkling with noble flare, twinkling strews of diamonds and sapphires… But why are they all stained with blood? – she wonders. The fourth door opens to a fragrant blooming garden. And everything – exuberant foliage, delicate rose petals, snow white lily beauties – is covered with those same scarlet drops of blood… “Judith, ask no questions – demands the Duke – open now the fifth door!” At last, iridescent shafts of bright sun light and cool wind enter the dungeon-castle. From the balcony Judith sees boundless scopes of verdant meadows, valleys, woods, lofty mountains. Weird is that even the cloud above her head shimmers with sinister vermilion-red tone of human blood...
“All is thine forever, Judith – whispers the Duke – fertile lands and piles of jewels. I only ask that two last doors must stay unopened! See how the sun hath filled my house?” But his love is agitated and hectically asking for a key to the sixth door: “Open it, Duke Bluebeard damned by all!” Castle stones produce a deep sobbing sigh when the key turns.
Astounded girl now sees a still, tranquil lake, gleaming with silvery-blue reflections on a transparent water surface. “Tears, my Judith, tears, tears” – confesses the Duke. Judith asks Bluebeard in anger: are the rumors true that he had loved a lot of women before her? What secrets are hidden in his past life? Why is everything covered in blood? Where does this solemn lake of tears come from? Answer to all these questions lays behind the seventh door, Bluebeard must open it!
Holding the last key in her hand Judith approaches the sacramental door, her body swaying slightly, and opens it in fear. In suddenly condensed darkness three shapes of women appear like ghosts – Duke’s former wives. They are the keepers of his immense treasures; it is them who water the flowers in his garden. “The first I found at daybreak, crimson, fragrant early morning – explains the Duke - hers the dawn of ev'ry new day… The second one I found at noon, silent, flaming, golden-haired noon. Hers the blaze of ev'ry midday. The third I found at evening. Quiet, languid, sombre twilight Hers is ev'ry solemn sunset…”
After approaching Judith the Duke places the diamond crown on her head and lays a black starry cloak on her shoulder. “No more, no more, Bluebeard, no more!” – begs the girl aghast. Alas, in vain. “The fourth I found at midnight, starry ebon-mantled midnight. Ev'ry night is thine hereafter. Thou art queen of all my women, my best and fairest!”
In silence, bowed down by the weight of the cloak, her head dropping, Judith goes the way of the Duke’s wives. The seventh door closes after them. The unearthly castle is suffused again with frost, darkness and isolation.