Béla Bartók:

Duke Bluebeard's Castle


  • Prof. Michael Ewans Discipline of Drama, University of Newcastle


Béla Balázs, Béla Bartók, Bluebeard, Judith, Carl Leafstedt


This article is in two parts. The first part elucidates the meaning of Béla Balázs's symbolist mystery play, which Bartók set to music in Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. I consider first whether it is designed to illuminate universal truths about relationships between men and women, or just the relationships of intensely private men like Bartók himself. Then the psychologically complex sequence of events at each door is analysed.

The second part is devoted to Bartók’s music. The occurrences of the ‘blood motif’ are evaluated, followed by a discussion of the music for each sequence in which Judit persuades Bluebeard to give her another key. The article concludes with an analysis of the almost ritualistic sequence in which Bluebeard invests Judit with a crown, jewels and a cloak, and sends her to take her place alongside his three former wives.

Author Biography

Prof. Michael Ewans, Discipline of Drama, University of Newcastle

Michael Ewans is Professor of Drama and Music, and Drama Performance Co-ordinator, in the School of Drama, Fine Art and Music at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He specializes in directing plays and chamber operas, translating Greek tragedy and comedy, and writing books and articles which explore how operas and dramas work in the theatre. He is the author of Janácek’s Tragic Operas, Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, Wagner and Aeschylus, and a complete set of accurate and actable translations of Aeschylus and Sophocles in four volumes, with theatrical commentaries based on his own productions. His newest book is Opera from the Greek: Studies in the Poetics of Appropriation, containing eight case studies in the appropriation of material from Greek tragedy and epic by composers from Monteverdi to Mark-Antony Turnage.




How to Cite

Ewans, M. . (2022). Béla Bartók: : Duke Bluebeard’s Castle. Journal of Music Research Online, 11. Retrieved from https://www.jmro.org.au/index.php/main/article/view/38