Dr. Damjana Bratuz
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Bartókiana - Abstracts

Lyrica Society for Word and Music Relation,
AMS – American Musicological Society Conference,
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


  Damjana Bratu TOP

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