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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor


First Committee Member

Edward Shadbolt

Second Committee Member

[?] R. Badley


The story of Bluebear has been the center of many theatrical and musical works. From its mystery-shrouded origin, the legend and its principal characters have experienced numerous transformations. Charles Perrault’s tale, the first known published version of the story, served as a basis for all succeeding treatments of the theme, which have handled the various characters differently -- at times stressing Bluebeard, and at other times, the heroine. The theme of the Bluebeard legend has appeared in literature in delightful fairytales and in several dramas, both tragic and comic. Musically, the legend has been employed in numerous operas and as a ballet-burlesque. The treatments of the characters, the keys, and the doors have been as varied as their many settings, culminating in the intense symbolistic drama, Bluebeard’s Castle, by Bela Balazs. His one-act drama was suggested by the three-act tragedy, Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, by the great Belgian symbolist, Maurice Maeterlinck. The symbolism in Balazs’ version is the salient force of the drama. It is this feature that Bartok exploits in his musical treatment for the text.

To better understand Bartok’s works, it must be realized that it was his purpose to revitalize the already exhausted, over-refined music of Europe with a transfusion of new blood from the peasant music of Hungary. Characteristic traits of Hungarian folk music are present in his music -- ornamental arabesques, rapid passage work, trills, ostinatos, leaps into strange intervals, unsymmetrical construction, irregular bar formations, frequent changes in meter, and sudden juxtaposing of quick and slow motion.

Bluebeard's Castle, a work of high importance in the development of Bartok's musical style, in the opinion of the present author, does reveal the accomplishment of that synthesis.



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