Ariane et Barbe-Bleue

Teatro Regio, Friday 23 November 2007 - Saturday 1 December 2007


Kristine Ciesinski (Ariane) e le spose di Barbe-Bleue - Atto III

The real Bluebeard was called Gilles de Rais, and before becoming a serial killer, he fought alongside Joan of Arc. In Perrault’s fairy tale, Bluebeard discovers that his wife Ariadne has disobeyed him because the magic key is stained with blood and the stain is indelible. In the opera by Dukas, Bluebeard lives in a world full of symbols - 6 doors, 6 windows, 6 wives and 6 silver keys - but he is the only one to have a sort of happy ending.

The play Ariane et Barbe-Bleue by Maurice Maeterlinck (the playwright who in 1892 wrote Pelléas et Mélisande, put to music by Debussy in 1902) was staged for the first time in Paris in 1899. Seven years would pass before it became an opera by Paul Dukas, premièred on 10 May 1907 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. Ariane and Pelléas are closely linked: the playwright is the same, the first Ariadne is Maeterlinck’s wife – Georgette Leblanc, whom Maeterlinck tried in vain to impose on Debussy as the first Mélisande- one of Bluebeard’s “kidnapped” wives is called Mélisande, and in Ariane a theme from the first act of Debussy’s opera is quoted.

On the other hand, Dukas had always declared himself an admirer of Debussy, and the critics named Debussy, Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner as composers “akin” to the musical climate of Ariane. Among its truest admirers, Gabriel Fauré dedicated two enthusiastic articles in “Le Figaro” to the opera and Vincent d’Indy wrote: «I consider this opera to be the strongest example of dramatic music to be produced after Wagnerian dramas». Not by accident Ariadne has this name, seeing how Bluebeard’s castle is a sort of labyrinth dominated by the lord of the castle/Minotaur. Vocally, Bluebeard’s role is one of the shortest for baritone: a few bars in the first act, nothing in the second and completely mute in the third.

Main data

Composer: Paul Dukas
Librettist: Maurice Maeterlinck
Year of the first performance: 1899 Opéra Comique, Parigi