The first vocal work and the only opera written by Bela Bartok (1881 1945), "Bluebeard's Castle" is considered the greatest Hungarian opera. Though it is concentrated into a single act and has only two characters, it burns with a fully operatic intensity "a musical volcano," as Zoltan Kodaly called it, "that erupts for 60 minutes of compressed tragedy."
The libretto, a symbolist drama by the distinguished writer Bela Balazs, takes off from Perrault's fairy tale to present a psychological case study of a nervous bride trying fully to enter the world of her new husband a darkly charismatic man into whose life she is confident she will be able to bring warmth, brightness, and love. He warns her not to ask what lies behind the seven doors in his gloomy castle, but after insisting that her love gives her the right to know everything about him, she learns the horrifying truth about the man she has married.
An early (1911) work of great assurance and promise, this short opera will be a revelation to listeners who know only Bartok's later music. It has a wholly different sound and, in its preoccupation with textures and timbre, shows the influence of Debussy and Richard Strauss. "Bluebeard's Castle" is the composer at his most sensual far from the more angular Bartok of later years.
This new edition of a long-neglected classic has been reproduced directly from a rare copy of the 1921 vocal score, featuring a piano reduction by the composer and a German translation by Wilhelm Ziegler. For this edition, Stanley Appelbaum has provided an informative Introduction and a full English synopsis based on the original Hungarian text. The result is an inexpensive, indispensable performance aid for the vocal soloist, speaker, and rehearsal pianist.