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Dido and Aeneas / Bluebeard's Castle

Henry Purcell 1659-1695
Béla Bartók 1881-1945

Dido and Aeneas
Opera in 5 scenes and an epilogue
Libretto by Nahum Tate after Virgil.
1st documented performance April 1689, Josias Priest’s School for Young Ladies, London
(premiere of this production: December 5 2010)
Sung in English with German surtitles

Bluebeard's Castle
1 act opera I Libretto by Béla Balázs
First performed May 24 1918, Royal Opera House, Budapest
Sung in Hungarian with German surtitles
(evening: ca. 2 hours 45 minutes, including 1 interval)
an introductory talk, in German, begins in the upstairs foyer 30 minutes before every performance  

The fact that both works revolve around the relationship between a man and women, that love and death are closely linked, that leave taking, melancholy and lonliness resonate, was reason enough for Constantinos Carydis and Barrie Kosky to the combine Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle in a double bill. Barrie Kosky's interpretation of Purcell's opera focuses on the lead female role. His direction underlines the intimacy and the fine, clear structure of Purcell's sound world. In Kosky's mind it is clearly a „One Woman Show with Guests“, the Carthaginian Queen Dido, abandoned by the Trojan hero Aeneas - her lamento ends with her dying of a broken heart. The title figure in Bartók's opera is not portrayed as a tyrant or wife murderer. „Bluebeard and Judith love each other, she comes to him of her own free will“. For Kosky the castle is a metaphor for Bluebeard's body, through which can be seen what is hidden behind the doors: blood, gold, tears, vegetation. The battle of love between Judith and Bluebeard plays out on Katrin Lea Tag's set, a bare, revolving space, a giant, empty place, a symbol for lost paradise.

Dido, the King of Carthage's widow, moved by the tale of Aeneas’ flight from the ruins of Troy, has fallen in love with him but is prevented from revealing her feelings because she had sworn never to marry again. Urged on by Belinda, Dido finally gives in to Aeneas’ desires. Aeneas promises to postpone his journey home and stay with Dido. The court rejoices at the royal alliance. Act 2 Dido’s enemy, a sorceress, plans, with her witches, to destroy the Queen. The witches intend to destroy Carthage and Dido and Aeneas’ love, and conjure up a storm to force Aeneas to take shelter and meet a spirit they will send, who will remind him of his duty to return to Italy. This, the witches hope, will make him give up Dido. During a morning hunt, Dido and Aeneas are being entertained by song and dance. The witches' storm begins and the Queen and her retinue hurry back to the city. Aeneas hears the false spirit’s message: Jupiter himself commands that he is not to stay another day. Distraught, Aeneas resigns himself to the fact that he must leave Carthage and found a new Troy. Act 3 The sailors take leave from their lovers. The sorceress predicts that Dido’s death is nigh. The Queen anticipates her fate. Aeneas tells Dido that he must leave. On seeing her desperation he decides to go against Jupiter’s command. Dido, her pride wounded, insists that Aeneas must leave her. He goes, she dies of a broken heart.
BLUEBEARD Judith left her family and fiancé to follow Bluebeard. She loves him and asks for the keys to seven locked doors. Judith wants to bring some light into the damp, dark castle. Bluebeard reminds her about the rumours that circulate about him. His warnings don’t deter her from wanting to open all the doors in the castle and reluctantly, he gives in. The first leads to his torture chamber. Behind the second door Judith finds Bluebeard’s weapons. She shows no fear, despite seeing bloodstains. She demands the other keys. The third reveals Bluebeard’s treasure chamber. Traces of blood on the jewels dampen Judith’s joy. Bluebeard is now keen for Judith to open the fourth door. A flowering garden is hidden behind it. The blooms flecked with blood. Bluebeard orders Judith to unlock the fifth door. There she finds a beautiful landscape. Judith notices that there is a blood stained cloud obscuring the sun. She wants to open the last two doors. Bluebeard fails in his attempts to restrain her. Behind the sixth is a lake of tears. The castle gets darker. Judith wants to know what is behind the seventh. Bluebeard puts up a fight before yielding to Judith’s reproaches, and gives her the last key. She finds Bluebeard’s three previous wives, the morning,  afternoon and evening. Judith belongs to the night. She decides to stay with Bluebeard. The castle stays dark forever.