Bluebeard Gets His Due


Indisputably one of more fascinating under-performed operas of the early 20th century, the title piece on Dukas: Ariane et Barbe-Bleu resurfaced in 2007 thanks to the dedication of conductor Leon Botstein, here leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

With a libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck, the opera serves as an alternative and very different take on the story of Bluebeard as depicted in Béla Balázs' libretto for Béla Bartók's chilling one-act opera, Bluebeard's Castle. While Bartók's masterpiece tells of Bluebeard's demonic power to enslave six beautiful women, Paul Dukas' increasingly lush and compelling score recounts how the sixth woman, here named Ariane rather than Judith, works to liberate the others.

Were I to say that Dukas' opera is often a whirlwind of power and emotion, you might imagine that Ariane et Barbe-Bleu is an operatic variation on The Sorcerer's Apprentice. In truth, it inhabits a far less literal and ponderous sound world, one that shares as much with the forward-looking music of Debussy and Wagner as it does with the palate of more conservative composers who preceded them.

The music is extremely beautiful, oft luscious, swelling equally with female sensuality as with the threat of male violence. Darkness and light re equally intoxicating, the score often drunk with power, passion, and the drive toward liberation. And the lead role of Ariane, here sung by soprano Lori Phillips, rivals the roles of Salome, Elektra, and Brünnhilde in its near incessant demands on the voice. This is an opera that must be heard.

  • Album Small
    Dukas: Ariane et Barbe-Bleue: Acte I - Où ...

    Leon Botstein & BBC Symphony Orchestra ...