Sign up for our newsletter

Bluebeard's Castle

Bluebeard's Castle – opera by Béla Bartók
Original title       A kékszakállú herceg vára
Librettist             Béla Balázs
Language            Hungarian

December 5, 2013, 7.30 PM
The DIMENNA – Center for Classical Music |450 West 37th St, 10018
Bluebeard-Riccardo Certi (IT)
Judith-Tiffany Rufini (US)
Piano-Ryoko Tajika Drei (JP)
Sylvia Sass (HU)
Costume designer
Dora Mojzes (HU)
Peter Gondor (US)

Bluebeard's Castle, or in Hungarian „A kékszakállú herceg vára” is the one and only opera of the most influential and best known Hungarian composer of the last century. The libretto of the opera is in Hungarian, written by Béla Balázs, a poet and friend of the composer. The story is based on the French literary tale "La Barbe bleue" by Charles Perrault. Bluebeard’s Castle is a one-act piece including only two singing characters: Bluebeard (Kékszakállú) played by Italian Riccardo Certi, and his new wife Judith (Judit) by American Tiffany Rufini. The single US performance of the opera is the outcome of an intensive master course given in Rome by world-famous soprano Sylvia Sass, one of the all-time classic interpreters of the character of Judith from Bluebeard’s Castle. The ensemble has performed the work on several occasions in the framework of the Italian-Hungarian Cultural Year, with the universality of great music attested to by the success of this intercultural collaboration. The piece will be performed in Hungarian. Directed and produced by Sylvia Sass. The artists received the Hungarian Cross of Merit from the President of Hungary on October 23, 2013. 

Balázs originally pitched his story and the libretto to his roommate Zoltán Kodály in 1908, and wrote it during the following two years. It was published serially from 1910, and was complemented with the prologue in 1912. Bartók decided to compose music for his friend’s libretto and entered the Erkel Prize competition which he did not win, but later Bartók was encouraged to make some modifications to the work in order to submit it to the Rózsavölgyi competition. The Rózsavölgyi judges, after reviewing the composition, decided that the work, with only two characters and a single location was not dramatic enough to be considered in the category for which it was entered: theatrical music. It is thought that the panel of judges who were to look at the musical (rather than the theatrical) aspects of the competition entries never saw Bartók's entry.
In 1913 Balázs produced a spoken performance at which Bartók played some piano pieces in a separate part of the program. A 1915 letter to Bartók's young wife, Márta, to whom he dedicated the opera ends with the following lines:

“Now I know that I will never hear it in this life. You asked me to play it for you—I am afraid I would not be able to get through it. Still I'll try so that we may mourn it together.”
The success of the ballet The Wooden Prince in 1917 paved the way for the forgotten opera’s Budapest première, on May 24, 1918 with the conductor Egisto Tango. Oszkár Kálmán performed Bluebeard, Olga Haselbeck played Judith. Following Béla Balázs' exile in 1919 and the ban on his work there were no revivals until 1936.
The first professional American performance of the opera was for NBC radio in 1949, conducted by Antal Dorati in Dallas, Texas. The first fully staged American production was at the New York City Opera on October 2, 1952 with conductor Joseph Rosenstock and only premiered in the Metropolitan Opera decades later, on June 10, 1974.
This 2013 production, as a single US performance of the opera is the outcome of an intensive master course given in Rome by world-famous soprano Sylvia Sass, one of the all time classic interpreters of the character of Judith from Bluebeard’s Castle. The ensemble has performed the work on several occasions in the framework of the Italian-Hungarian Cultural Year, with the universality of great music attested to by the success of this intercultural collaboration. The piece will be performed in Hungarian by Italian Riccardo Certi as Bluebeard and American Tiffany Rufini as Judith. Directed and produced by Sylvia Sass. The artists received the Hungarian Cross of Merit from the President of Hungary on October 23, 2013.
The basic plot is loosely based on the folk tale "Bluebeard", but is given a heavily psychological reworking.
Place: A huge, dark hall in a castle, with seven locked doors.
Time: Not defined.
Judith and Bluebeard arrive at his castle, which is all dark. Bluebeard asks Judith if she wants to stay and even offers her an opportunity to leave, but she doesn’t want to. Judith insists that all the doors be opened, to allow light to enter into the forbidding interior, insisting further that her demands are based on her love for Bluebeard. Bluebeard refuses, saying that they are private places not to be explored by others, and asking Judith to love him but ask no questions. Judith persists, and eventually prevails over his resistance.
The first door opens to reveal a torture chamber, stained with blood. Repelled, but then intrigued, Judith pushes on. Behind the second door is a storehouse of weapons, behind the third a storehouse of riches. Bluebeard urges her on. Behind the fourth door is a secret garden of great beauty; behind the fifth, a window onto Bluebeard's vast kingdom. All is now sunlit, but blood has stained the riches, watered the garden, and grim clouds throw blood-red shadows over Bluebeard's kingdom.
Bluebeard pleads with her to stop: the castle is as bright as it can get, and will not get any brighter, but Judith refuses to be stopped after coming this far, and opens the penultimate sixth door, as a shadow passes over the castle. This is the first room that has not been somehow stained with blood; a silent silvery lake is all that lies within, "a lake of tears". Bluebeard begs Judith to simply love him, and ask no more questions. The last door must be shut forever. But she persists, asking him about his former wives, and then accusing him of having murdered them, suggesting that their blood was the blood everywhere, that their tears were those that filled the lake, and that their bodies lie behind the last door. At this, Bluebeard hands over the last key.
Behind the door are Bluebeard's three former wives, but still alive, dressed in crowns and jewelry. They emerge silently, and Bluebeard, overcome with emotion, prostrates himself before them and praises each in turn, finally turning to Judith and beginning to praise her as his fourth wife. She is horrified, begs him to stop, but it is too late. He dresses her in the jewelry they wear, which she finds exceedingly heavy. Her head drooping under the weight, she follows the other wives along a beam of moonlight through the seventh door. It closes behind her, and Bluebeard is left alone as all fades to total darkness.
The slow orchestral introduction to the work is often preceded or overlapped by a spoken prologue, (also by Béla Balázs, but published as "Prologue of the Bard" independently of the play). The prologue warns the audience to pay careful attention to the events about to unfold and that the morals of the tale can apply to the real world as well as to that of Bluebeard and Judith. The character of the bard or "regős" in the Hungarian language is traditional in Hungarian folk music, and the words of the prologue, notably its opening lines "Haj, regő, rejtem" are associated with traditional Hungarian regős songs (regősénekek), which Bartók had previously studied. The prologue is frequently omitted from performances; to some it seems heavy-handed and unnecessary, while to others it fits well with the reworked folktale atmosphere.
Available English translations
The English translation printed in the 1963 miniature score is by Christopher Hassall. The one in the full score is by Chester Kallman. The piece was first published by Universal, the vocal in 1921 and the full score in 1925. Universal Edition and Bartók Records has published a new edition of the work in 2005 with new English translation by Peter Bartók.
Tiffany Rufini – Judith
Soprano Tiffany Rufini began her childhood musical studies as a pianist and trumpet player, and graduated from the Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, Michigan, with honors in both instruments. She continued her studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio, as a pianist, and began her vocal studies there with Richard Miller. As a Performance Diploma student at the IU Jacob's School of Music, in Bloomington, Indiana, she developed her voice with Giorgio Tozzi and Virginia Zeani. Her first operatic role was “Lauretta” in Puccini's “Gianni Schicchi”, and she has performed the leading soprano roles in “Madama Butterfly”, “Tosca”, “La Traviata”, and “La Bohème” in the United States, Europe and South America.  Ms. Rufini is currently expanding her repertoire to include Verdian roles such as “Aida”,  “Elisabetta” of Don Carlo, and “Leonora” of both La Forza del destino, and Il trovatore.  She learned the role of “Judith” in Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle with the renowned Hungarian soprano Sylvia Sass, and has upcoming engagements as “Judith” throughout Europe. Recently, she was honored by the President of the Republic of Hungary with the Cross of Merit. Ms. Rufini also enjoys an active recital career, and maintains a private voice studio in Rome, Italy, where she currently resides.

Riccardo Certi – Bluebeard
Italian born Baritone Riccardo Certi is one of the very first Italian singers to sing Bluebeard’s role in Hungarian in the masterpiece of Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. He graduated summa cum laude from the Luca Marenzio Conservatory of Music, where he received a degree in music education and vocal performance under the tutelage of Ms. Ida Bormida. Mr Certi had the honour to study with stars of the lyric opera like Renata Scotto, Romano Franceschetto, Ivo Vinco, Mark Schnaible, Jean-Philippe Lafont, but he considers word famous soprano Sylvia Sass as the most important and most inspirational mentor in his artistic life. Currently he is focusing especially on dramatic baritone roles like Amonasro (Aida), Michele (Il Tabarro), Iago (Otello), Tonio (I pagliacci), Compar Alfio (Cavalleria Rusticana) Il barone Scarpia (Tosca), Der fliegende Hollander ( Der Fliegende Hollander), Wolfram ( Tannhauser). Mr. Certi has performed principal roles in regional opera houses across Italy and France, appearing in Madama Butterfly by Puccini, in Bastiano e Bastiana by Mozart, in Il Gigante egoista by Giancarlo Facchinetti at the Teatro Odeon of Lumezzane, in Rigoletto by Verdi and in La Bohème. As a soloist he sang in various oratorio and concert works across Italy in the last years. Mr Certi won the Città di Ferrara International Opera Competition in 2011, was a finalist of the Città di Bologna competition in 2011. The artist has received the Hungarian Cross of Merit from the President of Hungary on October 23, 2013 for the dissemination and promotion of Hungarian culture and classical musical traditions during the celebrations of the Italian Hungarian Cultural Year in 2013.

Ryoko Tajika Drei – Piano
Ms. Ryoko Tajika Drei obtained her piano diploma from the Kunitachi School of Music in Tokyo where she studied with Akiko Kusano and Henriette Puig-Roget. She continued her studies in Italy at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome where she obtained the diploma of the post graduate school (Corso di Perfezionamento) under Sergio Perticaroli. She also attended master classes at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Liszt Academy in Budapest, and the Chigiana Music Academy in Siena. Ms. Tajika’s talent was recognized in a number of piano competitions: special prize at the international Schubert competition of the Japan Society for Musical Education; first prize at the international competition for soloists of the Society of Young Musicians of Japan; first prize at the Tersicore Competition in Chieti (Italy) and honor prize at the International Music Competition in Rome. Ryoko Tajika Drei has performed in Japan, Italy, Argentina, Austria, South Africa, Germany, the United States, and Russia, exploring both the western piano repertoire and modern Japanese composers. From 2002 to 2006 she lived in Washington, D.C., notably playing at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Gallery and the American Film Institute; she also performed in piano duo and worked with Japan’s public television NHK. From 2006 to 2008 she lived in Saint Petersburg (Russia) where she performed at the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory and at the Philharmonic with the Ermitage Orchestra. In 2009 Ryoko Tajika Drei moved to Rome, undertaking an articulate concert activity. Worthy of special note is her engagement in benefit concerts for the populations hit by the Tsunami in Japan and the earthquake in the Emilia Region of Italy. She has been working with Hungarian soprano Sylvia Sass in the framework of the official cultural exchange program “Hungary in Italy 2013” with concerts dedicated to Liszt and Bartok. In recognition of such fruitful collaboration, Ms. Tajika Drei was awarded the decoration of Chevalier of the Republic of Hungary.

Dora Mojzes – Costume designer
Dora Mojzes first broke the surface in 2008 with her graduation work for Moholy Nagy University of Art and Design, Hungary, when she earned the prize of the Hungarian Artists' National Association. In 2009 she launched her individual brand named Dora Mojzes and soon the first collection drew great attention, on both domestic and international markets, not only with its gripping inspiration but also with her re-considered idea of the 'woman'. Having specialized her collections for womenswear, she has set herself upon creating items which in fact reveal her unique style and emotions and highlights her peculiar vision. She regards her designs as ways of artistic self-expression as well as emphasis on womanhood. Since initiating her own brand she has appeared in many international publications like Vogue Italia, Zink or Neo2, been reported by the most prestigious fashion forums, along with almost every acclaimed Hungarian fashion magazines. It was a decisive and motivating turning-point when the internationally reputed topmodel Tyra Banks was wearing her design at a shooting, and not so long later Kanye West blogged about her in high terms.

Since always looking for new challenges, the cooperation with Mark Viszlay brought them second prize on the 2010 Fashion Video Festival. Further on she won both 2011 and 2012 Fashion Awards as 'Designer of the Year'! Dora Mojzes was granted a page in even two international fashion books, New on the Catwalk and Fast Forward Fashion, the latter framing her name amongst those imposing ones of Vivien Westwood or Viktor and Rolf.

Getting there
Located in midtown Manhattan at 450 West 37th Street (between 9th & 10th Avenue
Subway: A,C,E to 34th St – PENN Station
Bus: M34A to 8th Ave/37th St, M34 to Dyer Ave/W 34th St, M42 to 10th Ave/42nd St
Car: Park at Access 37 Parking on 37th Street and 9th Avenue for up to 12 hours for only $20! To take advantage of this discount, present your parking ticket at the lobby desk as you enter the building to receive a validation stamp for your ticket. This discount is good 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, including days when the Special Event rate is in effect.
The event is FREE and open for the public. To reserve tickets please click here.


No events


No events