St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre

A csodálatos mandarin
 A kékszakállú herceg vára 


opera by Béla Bártok

Performed in Hungarian (the concert will have synchronised Russian supertitles)


Conductor: Christian Knapp

Duke Bluebeard: Yakov Strizhak
Judith: Olga Baranenko

World Premiere: 24 May, 1918, Hungarian State Opera House, Budapest
Performance premiere: 7 April 2017, The Cleveland Orchestra and The Joffrey Ballet
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre: 27 June 2023

Running time: 1 hour

Age category 16+


Music by Béla Bártok
Libretto by Béla Balázs, based on the play Ariane et Barbe-bleue written by Maurice Maeterlinck

Stage Director: Yuri Possokhov
Lighting Designer: Ivan Vinogradov
Musical Preparation: Natalia Mordashova


Duke Bluebeard brings his young wife Judith to his dark castle. She is madly in love with him. It was for the sake of the formidable and aloof duke that the woman left her home, her relatives, and her fiance. Now Judith, accompanied by her husband, looks around his possessions. She is surprised to discover the infamous seven doors to Bluebeard's bloody past. Judith demands the keys to open each door. The game begins: she sees instruments of torture, weapons, jewelry, flowers and wonderful miracles, but everything is soaked in blood. Judith needs the truth, she can not rest until she opens the last door. Behind this door, a terrible truth is finally revealed to Judith, thus confirming the legend of Duke Bluebeard's castle.

Duke Bluebeard's Castle, Béla Bartók's first and only opera, was written by the young composer in 1911. At two consecutive opera competitions held in Budapest in 1911 and 1912, The Castle was rejected as unperformable. The premiere took place a little later, in Budapest on May 24, 1918 under the baton of conductor Egisto Tango.

The one-act opera is based on Maurice Maeterlinck's play Ariana and the Bluebeard. In it, the protagonist’s wives symbolize the periods of his life: morning – afternoon – evening – night. (A curious coincidence: the year Bartók was working on The Castle the playwright was awarded the Nobel Prize.) Bartók's work was strongly influenced by another opera based on Maeterlinck's story, Claude Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. Events unfold just as unhurriedly, each of them having a symbolic meaning, and the orchestra is just as lavish and sophisticated.

The real protagonist of Bartók's opera is a mysterious castle that Bluebeard shows to his young wife. Behind seven doors, as if behind seven seals, the secrets of the owner's soul are hidden.

The immortal plot is moved to Bartók's native soil. The libretto by Bela Balázs, originally intended for another Hungarian composer, Zoltán Kodály, is written in the meter of traditional Székely ballads (according to a legend, Count Dracula came from the Székelys). The structure of the music, especially the Bluebeard’s part, fully corresponds to the neo-folklore structure of the verse. After all, traveling accompanied by a wax roller phonograph (and then processing the songs he had recorded) was nearly the only thing that consoled the composer at the time his music was considered too radical to be performed.

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