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Bluebeard; a musical fantasy   By: (1856-1923)

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A Musical Fantasy

by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Dedication: To my friend Walter Damrosch Master of the art form so irreverently treated in these pages. Kate Douglas Wiggin


More than a dozen years ago musical scholars and critics began to illuminate the musical darkness of New York with lecture recitals explanatory of the more abstruse German operas. Previous to this era no one had ever thought, for instance, of unfolding the story, or the " Leit motive " (if there happened to be any!), in "The Bohemian Girl," "Maritana," or "Martha." These and many other delightful but thoroughly third class works unfolded themselves as they went along, to the entire satisfaction of a public so unbelievably care free, happy, thoughtless, childlike, uninstructed, that it hardly seems as if they could have been our ancestors.

Wagner changed all this at a single blow. One could no longer leave one's brains with one's hat in the coat room when the "Nibelungen Ring"appeared! Learned critics, pitifully comprehending the fathomless ignorance of the people, began to give lectures on the "Ring" to large audiences, mostly of ladies, through whom in course of time a certain amount of information percolated and reached the husbands the somewhat circuitous, but only possible method by which aesthetic knowledge can be conveyed to the American male. Women are hopeless idealists! It is not enough for them that their brothers or husbands should pay for the seats at the opera and accompany them there, clad in irreproachable evening dress. Not at all! They wish them to sit erect, keep awake, and look intelligent, and it is but just to say that many of them succeed in doing so. The art form known as the lecture recital, then, has succeeded in forcibly educating so large a section of the public that immense audiences gather at the Metropolitan Opera House, one half of them at least, in a state of such chastened susceptibility and erudition that the Tetralogy of Wagner has no terrors for them.

The next move was in behalf of the more cryptic, symbolic, hectic, toxic works of the ultra modern French school, which have been so brilliantly illuminated by their protagonists that thousands of women in the larger cities recognize a master's voice whenever one of his themes is played upon the Victrola.

I shall offer my practically priceless manuscript of "Bluebeard" for production in French at the Metropolitan, and in English at the Century Opera House; meantime Mr. Hammerstein is so impressed with its originality, audacity, and tragic power that he is laying the corner stone for a magnificent new building and will open and close it with "Bluebeard" in German, if no unforeseen legal complications should prevent.

It is in preparation for all this activity that I issue this brief but epoch making little work.



Bluebeard ( baritone ). Man of enormous wealth but dubious morals. Pioneer of the trial marriage idea.

Fatima ( singing actress ). Innocent, romantic, frivolous blonde type, rich in personal charm, weak in logic and a poor judge of men.

Sister Anne ( soprano ). Impulsive, magnetic, ambitious, highly marriageable brunette.

The Mother ( contralto ). Impecunious, mercenary widow, determined to settle her daughters in life without any regard to eugenic principles.

Mustapha ( robust tenor ). Elder brother; the one who has the fat acting part since he rescues Fatima and slays Bluebeard.

Other Brothers ( falsettos ). Of no account save to show the size of the family to which Fatima belongs and her mother's sound convictions on the subject of race suicide. The other brothers have nothing to do except to slay sheep (by accident) when attempting to destroy Bluebeard's tiger and elephant.

The Tiger ( throaty baritone ). Comic character.

The Elephant & The Dragon ( basses ). Introduced simply as corroborative detail... Continue reading book >>

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