In Bartók’s Universe

Bartók Plus Opera Festival


Bartók Plus Opera Festival keeps Béla Bartók, one of the most influential twentieth-century composer’s oeuvre in the focus of attention by regular performances of his orchestral and stage works. As the seminal Bartók festival in Hungary it endeavours to point out the influence of this epoch-making artist on the music and musician generations that followed him, many of whom he himself discovered for the international music scene.

DUKE BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE                                         
(Opera) Libretto: Béla Balázs                                                              

The opera Bluebeard’s Castle was first performed on May 24th, 1918 at the Hungarian Royal Opera House in Budapest, directed by Dezső Zádor while the set was designed by Miklós Bánffy, managing director of the Opera House. (...) Giving way to the composer’s wish, first The Wooden Prince - finished by that time - was staged in May 12th, 1917 of Bartók’s operas... The set design was Miklós Bánffy’s (1973-1950) work on this occasion, too.

“Whilst Bartók stands out amongst his musical contemporaries and predecessors his world wide reputation may not have been same without the encouragement from Bánffy, who opened the stage of the Opera House to him.”
(Miklós Szinetár, director)

A production of the Hungarian Opera
in Cluj on the Main Stage at the
Miskolc National Theatre
Bluebeard – János Szilágyi
Judith – Mária Molnár
Directed by: Miklós Szinetár

The opera takes place in the “Age of Legends”, in Duke Bluebeard’s castle, but he real scene is the intangible, closed world of a man’s psyche. Bluebeard appears as the hero of a Hungarian folk ballad, which is emphatic due to Bartók’s keen interest in folk music and is suggested by the prose introduction, the Bard’s Prologue.


Once upon a time...
Where did this happen?
Outside or within?

Ancient fable, what does it mean,
Ladies and gentlemen?
The song goes on.
You look at me, I look at you.
The curtain of our eyelids is raised:

Where is the stage, outside or within,

Ladies and gentlemen?
Bitter and joyous
Are the events around us,
But the world's armies
Do not determine our fate,
Ladies and gentlemen.
We see each other,
We tell our own tales.
Wherever we come from,
We listen with amazement,

Ladies and gentlemen.
The music sounds, the flames are lit.
Let the play begin.
The curtain of my eyelids is raised.
Take notice until it drops again,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Old is this castle
Old is the tale enclosed by it walls.
Observe carefully.

(Péter Bartók’s translation)

(BARD’S PROLOGUE - in Hungarian)

Haj regö rejtem
hová, hová rejtsem...
Hol, volt, hol nem:
kint-e vagy bent?
Régi rege, haj mit jelent,
Urak, asszonyságok?
Ím szólal az ének.
Ti néztek, én nézlek.
pillás függönye fent:
Hol a színpad:
kint-e vagy bent,
Urak, asszonyságok?
Keserves és boldog
nevezetes dolgok,
az világ kint haddal tele,
de nem abba halunk bele,
urak, asszonyságok.
Nézzük egymást, nézzük,
regénket regéljük.
Ki tudhatja honnan hozzuk?
és csodálkozzuk,
urak, asszonyságok.
Zene szól, a láng ég.
Kezdődjön a játék.
Szemem pillás függönye fent.
Tapsoljatok majd, ha lement,
urak, asszonyságok.
Régi vár, régi már
az mese ki róla jár.
Tik is hallgassátok.

(Ballet) Libretto: Menyhért Lengyel

“...I am already thinking about the Mandarin as well, it will be a hellish music if I succeed. The beginning, a very short introduction before the curtain is raised, is an awful noise consisting of clatter, clomping and hooting: I am leading the H. audience to the Apache bivouak from the turmoil of the streets in a metropolis”

(Bartók’s letter to his wife in September 1918)

(Ballet) Libretto: Béla Balázs

“It sounds strange, perhaps, but I confess that I got the impulse to write this ballet from the indifference shown towards my opera Duke Bluebeard. It is well known that this opera failed at an opera competition. The greatest obstacle to its staging was that the plot only explores the psychic conflict of two characters and the music was also restricted to the abstractly simple portrayal of that conflict. Nothing else is happening on the stage. I loved my opera so much, that when I received the script of this dance-play from Béla Balázs, I immediately thought that I will make it possible through the spectacle of the ballet, with its colourful and richly varied action that both of my two works could be performed on the same night. I think it is not necessary to stress that the ballet is just as close to me now as my opera.”

(Béla Bartók)

“I have thought of the artists’ frequent and deep dilemma arising when the artwork becomes a rival for its creator, and of the painful glory when the beloved woman prefers the poem to the poet, the painting to the painter”

(Béla Bartók about The Wooden Prince)

Credits: Story

Editor in chief: Lenke Frecskó

Photos: János Vajda, Vera Éder, Mihály Samu Gálos,

Text and translation: László Méhes, István Nagy

Also Collaborated: Dániel Gyetvai

Publisher: Miskolc Opera Festival Nonprofit Ltd.

Credits: All media
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