Deluxe Color Facsimile
Béla Bartók
Duke Bluebeard's Castle

Facsimile of the Autograph
Draft Manuscript
Institute for Musicology
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Commentary: Lászlo Vikárius
Balassi Kiadó: Budapest, 2006
26 x 35 cm, 58, 51 pp.
ISBN 963 506 689 9  $150
(view other 20th-c. facsimiles)

Bartok, Duke Bluebeard's Castle

Bartok: Duke Bluebeard's Castle

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OMI - Old Manuscripts & Incunabula
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Duke Bluebeard's Castle, composed in 1911, is Béla Bartók's only opera. It is the first large-scale example of his mature individual style, owing much to such works as the Fourteen Bagatelles (1908), Four Dirges, Two Romanian Dances, the Allegro Barbaro (1911), as well as the First String Quartet (1908/9). The opera, a concise and paradigmatic work reduced to the essentials (with just two singers), is an iconic piece in the œuvre. Despite the somewhat suite-like character of the inner series of scenes (or "doors"), a wonderfully closed symmetrical form prevails in the composition that points to one of the most original formal structures Bartók cultivated: the symmetric or palindrome form that first made its appearance in a consistent manner in his Fourth String Quartet in 1928.  In Bluebeard Bartók created a new Hungarian style of singing on the stage, a style based on the parlando of peasant songs. Zoltán Kodály wrote: "this is the first work on the Hungarian operatic stage in which the singing is consistent from beginning to end, speaking to us in an uninterruped Hungarian way".  Almost no early sketches survive for the opera that can unveil the origins of this new operatic manner. However, an early draft survives—the basis of this facsimile edition—that represents the main compositional source: it is a fascinating short score (particell) that documents the first continuity draft of the piece, together with indications of orchestration and many revisions and second thoughts. This remarkable autograph—the first vocal score of Bluebeard as the composer described it in an unpublished letter— was once in the possession of Emma Schlesinger-Kodály after whose death it passed to the Bartók Archives of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Apart from the importance of the source for shedding light on compositional process, it also contains the first German translation of the libretto made by Emma Kodály (copied into the manuscript by her husband, Zoltán Kodály), a wonderful testimony of the close friendship of Bartók and the Kodálys, a friendship that was decisive for the composer's intellectual and music development for all of his life. (adapted from László Vikárius' text)

Bartók, Duke Bluebeard's Castle, cover