Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard's Castle

Michael Ewans


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.


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

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