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The Sunday Opera: "Ariane et Barbe-Bleue" by Paul Dukas

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Some composers, like Paul Dukas, are best known for one or two specific works, and on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/9 3:00 p.m.), we’re going to change that when we look at his only surviving opera “Ariane et Barbe-Bleue.”  The extremely self-deprecating Dukas destroyed his other three operas, so we’re lucky to have this delightful version of the Charles Perrault fairytale.  First performed in Paris in 1907, this “Barbe-Bleue” is a bit less bloody than other versions.  The Perrault features a blood-filled basement surrounded by the bodies of Bluebeard’s dead wives hanging from the walls and ends with the death of Bluebeard.  Here, the Maeterlinck libretto sees Ariane as a liberator who finds Bluebeard’s previous wives and tries to lead them to safety.  

However, they are too traumatized by what has happened to them, and they refuse to leave Bluebeard in an example of what would be called “Stockholm Syndrome” some 66 years later.  The recording to which we’ll be listening features Katherine Ciesinski as Ariane and Gabriel Bacquier as Bluebeard (Barbe-bleue).  They’re joined by Mariana Paunova as Ariane’s nurse and Hanna Schaer, Anne-Marie Blanzat, Jocelyne Chamonin, and Michelle Command as the wives.  Armin Jordan conducts.  Stay with host Michael Kownacky after the opera for more music of Dukas including his Symphony in C, Prelude Elegiaque, the Polyeucte Overture, the ballet Le Peri, and, of course, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.