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Submitted by Rolf Jordan

Bluebeard's Castle
Herzog Blaubarts Burg (1964)

The film is sung in German (although a print with English subtitles does exist) so we offer the libretto from a CD booklet here for anyone who doesn't know enough German to follow the plot.

Bluebeard's Castle

Operetta by Bela Bartok (1881-1945) 1911, duration 1 hour.
Libretto by Bela Balazs (1884-1949), English translation Christopher Hassall

(It is a vast, circular, Gothic hall. Steep stairs at left lead up to a small iron door. To the right of the stairs seven enormous doors, four of them directly facing the audience, the last two at one side. No windows, no ornamentation. The hall is empty, dark, and forbidding like a cave hewn in the heart of solid rock. When the curtain rises the stage is in total darkness. Suddenly the small iron door at the head of the stairs is flung wide, and in the dazzling white open­ing appear the black, silhouetted figures of Bluebeard and Judith.)

Here we are now. Now at last you see
Before you Bluebeard's castle.
Not a happy place like your father's.
Judith, answer. Are you coming?

Coming, coming, dearest Bluebeard.

(comes slowly down the steps)
Do you hear the bells a-jangling?
Child, thy mother sits in sorrow;
Sword and shield thy father seizeth;
Swift thy brother leaps to saddle.
Judith, answer, are you coming?

Coming, coming, dearest Bluebeard.
(Bluebeard is at the bottom of the stairs. He turns to look at Judith who has stopped halfway down. The ray of light from the door shines directly on them both.)

Dearest Judith, are you frightened?

(with hands pressed to her breast)
No, my skirt was tangled,
Something caught its silky flounces.

See, the doorway standeth open.

Dearest Bluebeard!
(She comes a few steps dawn.)
Mother and father beloved,
Brother and sister devoted,
(She comes all the way down.)
- all of them - I left them weeping,
All my kindred, to come hither.
(She snuggles up to him.)
Darling Bluebeard! If you reject me
And drive me out, I'll never leave you.
I'll perish on your icy threshold.
(Bluebeard embraces her.)

Let the door be shut and bolted.
(The small iron door swings to. The hall is only bright enough for the two figures and the seven huge black doors to be just visible.)

(She fumbles her way along the left wall, keeping hold of Bluebeard's hand.)
Is this really Bluebeard's castle?
Why no windows?
No sweet daylight?


Can the sun never glimmer here?


Always icy, dark and gloomy?

Always, always.

(She comes forward.)
All who come here cease their gossip.
All the rumours hushed in silence.

Do you know them?

Ev'rything lies deep in shadow.
(She feels her way forward.)
(She shudders.)
The walls are sweating.
Tell me Bluebeard­
Why this moisture on my fingers?
Walls and rafters, all are weeping.
(She covers her eyes.)

Judith, Judith, would it not be
Happier in your father's castle,
Roses rambling round the terrace,
The sunlight dancing on the roof?

Never, never, dearest Bluebeard!
I no longer crave for daylight.
Roses, sunshine, they are nothing,
Nothing, nothing,
Ev'rything is veiled in twilight.
I can hardly see your castle.
All is darkness.
Solemn, solemn, joyless Bluebeard.
(She sinks down sobbing and kisses his hand.)

Tell me why you came here, Judith.

(She jumps to her feet)
I shall dry weeping flagstones
With my own lips they shall be dried.
I shall warm this icy marble,
Warm it with my living body.
Let me do it, let me do it
Darling Bluebeard!
I shall brighten your sad castle,
You and I shall breach these ramparts.
Wind shall blow through, light shall enter,
Light shall enter.
Your house shall glitter bright as gold.

Naught can glitter in my castle.

(turns to the right, towards mid-stage)
I shall follow, gentle Bluebeard.
Show me over all your castle.
(moves to mid-stage)
Ah, I see seven great shut doorways.
Seven doors all barred and bolted.
(He follows her with his eyes, mute and motionless.)
Why are all the seven bolted?

None must see what is behind them.

Open, open! Throw them open.
All those locks must be unfasten'd.
Wind shall scour them, light shall enter!

Bear in mind the whisper'd rumours.

Light and air will cheer your castle.
Happy sunshine, laughing breezes,
They will cheer your joyless dwelling.
Open, open, open!
(She hammers on the First Door. The sound is answered by a cavernous sighing, as when the night wind sighs down endless, gloomy labyrinths.)
(She recoils.)
Woe! What was that? Who was sighing?
Who was moaning? Answer, Bluebeard!
Mournful dwelling, piteous castle,
House of anguish!

Art thou afraid?

(She weeps softly.)
Oh, I heard your castle sighing.

Didst thou?

Yes, I heard a sigh of anguish.
Come we'll open, both together.
I'll unlock it, only I!
I shall do it very gently,
Softly, softly, gently.
Let me have the keys, my Bluebeard.
Give me them because I love you.
(She leans on his shoulder.)

Thy sweet hands are blessed, Judith.
(The sound of keys clinking in the darkness.)

Thank you, thank you!
(She goes back to the First Door.)
Bluebeard, let me open it now.
(As the lock turns, the reverberating sigh is heard again.)
Listen, listen.
(The door opens without a sound. It reveals a blood-red rectangle in the wall like an open wound. A red glimmer comes from deep within, throwing a long beam across the floor .)

What seest thou? What seest thou?

(presses her hands to her breast)
Shackles, daggers, racks and pincers,
Branding irons!

Judith, 'tis my torture chamber.

Fearful is thy room of torture,
Dearest Bluebeard! Dreadful, horrible!

Art thou afraid?

(starts in horror)
Look, your castle walls are blood-stained!
Look, the walls are bleeding...
Bleeding... bleeding...

BLUEBEARD Art thou afraid?

(turns back to Bluebeard. She is silhouetted against the red light.
With pale, calm resolution.)
No! I'm not afraid. See, morning breaks!
Crimson sunrise! Behold the light.
(She goes back to him, walking cautiously along the beam of light.)
Look there, lovely radiance!
(She kneels down and stretches out her arms as though cupping the light in her hands.)

Crimson river, blood-stained waters!

(She rises to her feet.)
Watch and marvel, watch the sunrise.
Heaven brightness!
We must open all the doorways.
Healthy air shall flutter through them.
Ev'ry door must open, open!

Child, you know not what's beyond them.

Give me keys to all the others!
I must enter all these doorways.
We must open ev'ry doorway!
All the doors.

Tell me why you want to, Judith.

Because I love you.

Through and through my castle trembles.
You may open all the others.
(He gives her the second key and their meeting hands seems to melt in the red glow.)
Judith, careful, 'tis my castle.
Go with breathless caution, Judith.

(She goes to the Second Door.)
I'll go gently, very softly,
Softly, softly.
(The lock snaps and it opens. The aperture is of a yel1owish red colour, sombre, and disturbing to behold. The second beam of light lies on the floor alongside the first.)

What seest thou?

Piles of cruel arms and armour,
Countless, fearful battle weapons.

'Tis my armoury, Judith.

Thou art very strong and mighty. Oh, but cruel art thou, Bluebeard!

Are you frightened?

Blood on all the spears and daggers!
Blood-stained are thy battle weapons.

Are you frightened?

(turns to Bluebeard)
Give me the keys to all your doorways!

Judith, Judith!

(She walks back toward Bluebeard along the second beam of light.)
Here's the second light stream,
Gleaming river. Look at it! Look at it!
Give me the keys to all your doorways.

Pray be careful, careful, Judith.

Give me the keys to all the others.

Can you guess what lies behind them?

I came hither because I love you.
I am here, and I am yours.
Show me all your hidden secrets.
Let me enter ev'ry doorway.

Through and through my castle trembles.
Stones of sorrow thrill with rapture.
Judith, Judith, cool and soothing
Is the blood that oozes freshly.

I came here because I love you.
Let me open ev'ry doorway!

Three more heavy keys I give thee.
Thou shall see, but ask me nothing.
Look your fill, but ask no questions.

Let me have the keys you promised.
(He gives her the keys. She snatches the keys impatiently and hurries to the Third Door. She hesitates in front of it.)

Why are you faltering? Open it quickly!

Where's the lock? I cannot find it.

Judith, fear not, fear no longer.
(Judith turns the key. The door swings open with a sonorous, metallic sound. A beam of golden light stretches across the floor alongside the other two.)

Mountains of gold! Fabulous gems!
(She kneels down and digs into the pile of treasures, lays jewels, a crown and a luxurious cape on the threshold.)
Glinting coins and flashing diamonds,
Gleaming rubies, pearls that sparkle.
Gowns of ermine, crowns of glory!

'Tis my castle's treasury.

Thou art rich, my dearest Bluebeard.

Ev'ry golden crown shall be thine
All the rubies, pearls and diamonds.

(turns in sudden alarm)
All your precious gems are blood-stained!
(She gazes at him in astonishment.)
Your brightest jewel is blood-stained!
(She becomes more and more agitated, and hectically impatient.)

Judith, open now the Fourth Door.
Bring the sunshine, open, open.

(She suddenly turns to the Fourth Door and opens it. Branches heavy with blossom crowd out through the aper­ture. They are suffused with a bluish-green light. This new beam of light stretches across the floor beside the others.)
Ah! What lovely flowets! Sweet, fragrant garden,
Hidden under rocks and boulders!

'Tis my castle's secret garden.

Ah, tender flowers!
Giant lilies, tall as men!
Cool silky, exquisite roses,
Red carnations gleaming with light!
Never have I seen such beauty.

Ev'ry flower nods to greet thee.
Thou hast made them bud and blossom.
Thou hast made them swiftly wither,
Only to revive in glory!

(She suddenly stoops down.)
Your white rose is flushed with blood spots.
All the soil around is blood-soaked!

'Tis thine eyes that open the flowers.
Praising thee they sing at daybreak.

(rises and turns to Bluebeard)
Who has bled to feed your garden?

Judith, love me, ask no questions.
Look, my castle gleams and brightens.
Judith, open now the Fifth Door.
(With a sudden movement ]udith runs to the Fifth Door and flings it open.
A lofty verandah is revealed and unbounded vistas are beyond. The light pours out in a glittering cascade. Dazzled by the radiance, ]udith shields her eyes with her hand.)


Now behold my spacious kingdom.
Gaze ye down the dwindling vistas.
Is it not a noble country?

(stares fixedly out, distracted)
Fair and spacious is your country.

Silken meadows, velvet forests,
Tranquil streams of winding silver.
Lofty mountains blue and hazy!

Fair and spacious is your country.

All is thine forever, Judith.
Here both dawn and twilight flourish.
Here sun, moon, and stars have dwelling.
They shall be thy deathless playmates.

Yonder cloud throws blood-red shadows.
What do these grim clouds portend?

See, how my poor castle glitters.
Thy pure blessed hands have done this.
Yea, thy hands are blessed, Judith.
(He opens his arms.)
Come now, place them on my heart.

(She does not move.)
Two doors are still not open.

Those two doors must stay unopened.
Now my house shall ring with music.
Come, my love, I yearn to kiss thee.

Let the last two doors be opened.

Judith, Judith, I must kiss thee.
Come, I'm waiting. Judith, love me!

Let the last two doors be opened!

(He lets his arms fall to his side in a gesture of resigna­tion.)
Child, you begged for... prayed for sunlight...
See how the sun hath filled my house!

Two more doors. Not one of your
Great doors must stay shut fast against me.

Child, beware, beware my castle.
Careful, it will shine no longer.

Though I perish I fear nothing,
Dearest Bluebeard.

Judith, Judith!

Open, open those two doorways,
Bluebeard, Bluebeard,
Mighty Bluebeard!

Why so stubborn, why so stubborn,
Judith? Judith?

Open, open!

Come, I grant thee one more key.
(She stretches out her hand, mutely demanding. He hands her the key. As she turns the key in the lock a deep sobbing sigh is heard. ]udith starts back.)
Judith, Judith: do not open it!
(With an abrupt gesture Judith unlocks the door.
The room becomes slightly darker, as though a shadow were passing over.)

I can see a sheet of water,
White and tranquil sleeping water.
What is this mysterious water?

Tears, my Judith, tears, tears.

Ah, how hushed, serene, unearthly!

Tears, my Judith, tears, tears.

(She bends down and gazes into the lake.)
Sleeping, silver, smooth, unearthly.

Tears, my Judith, tears, tears.
(Judith gazes intently and silently into his eyes. He opens his arms.)
Come, my Judith, come, my Judith,
Let me kiss you.
(She still does not move.)
Come, I'm waiting, Judith, waiting.
(She still does not move.)
The last of my doors must stay shut,
Shut for ever.

(With bowed head she goes slowly up to him, and with a look of earnest, pitiful entreaty she presses herself against him.)
Sweetest Bluebeard, take me, love me.
(He embraces her and kisses her passionately.
She lays her head on his shoulder.)
Dost thou love me, deeply, truly?

Thou who art my castle's daylight,
Kiss me, kiss me. Ask no questions.
(He kisses her again.)

(She lays her head on his shoulder.)
Tell me, tell me, dearest Bluebeard,
Tell me whom you loved before me?

Thou who art my castle's sunshine,
Kiss me, kiss me. Ask me nothing.

Tell me in what way you loved her,
Was she very fair? Did you love her more,
More than you love me, my Bluebeard?

Judith, love me, ask no questions.

Tell me truly, mighty Bluebeard.

Judith, love me, ask no questions.

(She frees herself from his embrace.)
Open the seventh and last door!
(He remains silent.)
I have guessed your secret, Bluebeard.
I can guess what you are hiding.
Bloodstain on your warrior's weapons,
Blood upon your crown of glory.
Red the soil around your flowers.
Red the shade your cloud was throwing.
Now I know it all, oh, Bluebeard,
Know whose weeping filled your white lake.
All your former wives have suffer'd,
Suffer'd murder, brutal, bloody.
Ah, those rumours, truthful rumours!


Truthful, truthful!
I must prove them, ev'ry detail.
Open for me the last of your doorways!

Take it, take it. Here's the seventh and last key.
(Judith stands rigid, gazing at him. She does not put out her hand for the key.)
Open now the door and see them.
All my former wives await thee.
(Far a while she stands motionless then she takes the key with a faltering hand, and goes, her body swaying slightly, to the Seventh Door. When the lock snaps the Fifth and Sixth Doors swing to with a gentle sighing sound. It becomes much darker. Only the opposite four open doorways illuminate the hall with their beams of coloured light.
And now the Seventh Door opens and a long, tapering beam of silvery moonshine reaches out from the aperture and bathes the faces of Judith and Bluebeard in its silvery light.)
Hearts that I have loved and cherished!
See, my former loves, sweet Judith.

(shrinks back astounded and horrified)
Living, breathing. They live here!
(Through the Seventh Door his former wives come forth. They are three in number. They wear crowns on their heads and their bodies are ablaze with priceless gems. Pale of face but with proud and haughty gait they step forward one after the other, and stand before Bluebeard who sinks to his knees in homage.)

(As though in a trance he stretches out his arms to them.)
Radiant, royal! Matchless beauty!
They shall ever live immortal.
They have gathered all my riches.
They have bled to feed my flowers.
Yea, they have enlarged my kingdom.
All is theirs now, all my treasures.

(She stands with the others so as to make the fourth in the line, looks broken in spirit and afraid.)
Dazzling beauty past believing.
Oh, compared with these I'm nothing.

(rises to his feet and whispers intently to Judith)
The first I found at daybreak,
Crimson, fragrant early morning.
Hers is now the swelling sunrise.
Hers its cool and coloured mantle,
Hers its gleaming crown of silver,
Hers the dawn of ev'ry new day.

Ah, she's richer far than I am!
(The first wife slowly returns whence she came.)

The second one I found at noon,
Silent, flaming, golden-haired noon.
Hers is ev'ry noon hereafter.
Hers their heavy burning mantle.
Hers their golden crown of glory.
Hers the blaze of ev'ry midday.

Ah, she's fairer far than I am!
(The second wife goes back through the door.)

The third I found at evening.
Quiet, languid, sombre twilight.
Hers is each returning sunset.
Hers that grave and umber mantle.
Hers is ev'ry solemn sunset.

Fairer, richer far than I am!
(The third wife returns.)
(Far a long time Bluebeard stands confronting Judith in silence. They gaze into each other's eyes. The Fourth Door closes slowly.)

The fourth I found at midnight.

No more, no more, Bluebeard, no more.

Starry ebon-mantled midnight.

No more, no more, I am still here.

Thy pale face was all a-glimmer.
Splendid was thy silky brown hair.
Ev'ry night is thine hereafter.
(He goes to the Third Door and brings forth the crown, cloak and jewels, that Judith had placed on the threshold. The Third Door closes. He lays the cloak over Judith's shoulders .)
Thine is now the starry mantle.

Bluebeard, Bluebeard, spare me, spare me.

(He places the crown on her head.)
Thine is now the crown of diamonds.

Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

(He hangs the jewels round her neck.)
Thine is the wealth of my kingdom.

Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

Thou art lovely, passing lovely,
Thou art queen of all my women,
My best and fairest!
(They gaze into each other's eyes. Bowed down by the weight of the cloak, her head dropping, Judith goes the way of the other women, walking along the beam of moonlight toward the Seventh Door. She enters, and it closes after her.)
Henceforth all shall be darkness,
Darkness, darkness.
(The stage is slowly plunged into total darkness, blotting Bluebeard from sight.)


© 1952 Boosey and Hawkes

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