Bartókiana - Abstracts
Lyrica Society for Word and Music
AMS – American Musicological
Washington DC, October 27, 2005.
“Transgression without Threshold: on the Missing,
or Mistranslated Bard’s Prologue in Béla
Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.”
by Damjana Bratuž
The contemporary practice of transgression, appropriation,
and dislocation that is applied to opera productions,
does not touch the original words being sung. But Bartók’a
opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle on a libretto
by Béla Balázs, includes a bard’s
spoken Prologue which in the West is most
often omitted both in performances and in recordings.
When the words are translated into English, and usually
given only in written form, they never represent that filtering
membrane that connects, structurally and poetically,
the Prologue to the opera.
The Prologue serves as a threshold to the
work, it is a door which precedes the opera’s
seven fateful doors. Not only does the Prologue‘s
poetic and mythical dimension give in a condensed form
the import of the entire musical fable, but its structure,
the syllabic construction, the rhythmic succession
of the long and short vowels, the built-in parlando-rubato articulation
of the Hungarian words, create an anticipation of Bartók’s
innovative rhythmic and expressive contribution.
It was Béla Balázs’ intention
to write the text in the style of a folk ballad; and
Bartók uses in the opera the same refinements
in the passage de la parole à l’expression
chantée that he does in his most intricate
transcriptions of folk songs.
A recorded example of the Prologue’s
recited text (in Hungarian) is examined, and English
versions are compared, including a spoken one, a veritable
example of ‘voice appropriation.’ These
are presented in order to illustrate the artistic consequences
of dis/connection, i.e., the eradication of meaning.
However, there seems to be a solution, in my estimation,
one that incorporates a suggestion given by Bartók
himself at the end of his score.
Power Point presentation