Duke Bluebeard’s Castle & Francesca da Rimini

by Béla Bartók & Sergei Rachmaninoff

April 19th, 2020 / 2pm show

Two Women, led on a journey to Hell by the men they loved.

Poster for the Show

Duke Bluebeard’s Castle


Bluebeard-Armen Dirtadian

Judith-Korby Myrick


A short spoken prologue (by the Storyteller) tells the audience that they are entering a world of myth which may reveal something of the inner self.

Bluebeard and his new wife Judith enter Bluebeard’s castle. The latter has just married Bluebeard despite her family’s opposition. She is still in her wedding dress when they enter his castle, which she finds “icy, dark and gloomy” and vows to brighten it up.

Judith insists that all the doors be opened, to allow light to enter into the forbidding interior, insisting further that her demands are based on her love for Bluebeard. Bluebeard refuses, saying that there are private places not to be explored by others, and asking Judith to love him but ask no questions. Judith persists, and eventually prevails over his resistance.

The first door opens to reveal a torture chamber, stained with blood. Repelled, but then intrigued, Judith pushes on. Behind the second door is a storehouse of weapons, and behind the third a storehouse of riches. Bluebeard urges her on. Behind the fourth door is a secret garden of great beauty; behind the fifth, a window onto Bluebeard’s vast kingdom. All is now sunlit, but blood has stained the riches, watered the garden, and grim clouds throw blood-red shadows over Bluebeard’s kingdom.

Bluebeard pleads with her to stop: the castle is as bright as it can get, and will not get any brighter, but Judith refuses to be stopped after coming this far, and opens the penultimate sixth door, as a shadow passes over the castle. This is the first room that has not been somehow stained with blood; a silent silvery lake is all that lies within, “a lake of tears”. Bluebeard begs Judith to simply love him, and ask no more questions. The last door must be shut forever. But she persists, asking him about his former wives, and then accusing him of having murdered them, suggesting that their blood was the blood everywhere, that their tears were those that filled the lake, and that their bodies lie behind the last door. At this, Bluebeard hands over the last key.

Behind the door are Bluebeard’s three former wives, but still alive, dressed in crowns and jewellery. They emerge silently, and Bluebeard, overcome with emotion, prostrates himself before them and praises each in turn (as his wives of dawn, midday and dusk), finally turning to Judith and beginning to praise her as his fourth wife (of the night). She is horrified and begs him to stop, but it is too late. He dresses her in the jewellery they wear, which she finds exceedingly heavy. Her head drooping under the weight, she follows the other wives along a beam of moonlight through the seventh door. It closes behind her, and Bluebeard is left alone as all fades to total darkness.

Francesca da Rimini


Ghost of Virgil-Mark Hockenberry

Dante-Jeff Myrmo

Lanceotto Malatesta, a Lord of Rimini-Octavio Moreno

Francesca, his wife-Dori Scholer

Paolo, his brother-David Gustafson


Making their way through the Circles of Hell, Dante and the ghost of Virgil come to a place of whirlwinds where they meet the spirits of those damned by lust. Here they meet Francesca and her lover Paolo and their story is retold. In life, Francesca is married to a great warrior, Lanceotto Malatesta. Lanceotto has had many successes in battle, but these bring him no joy, as he is tortured by jealousy and fear that his wife loves his younger brother Paolo, whom he had originally sent to woo Francesca on her father’s advice. 

Francesca had not realised Paolo was representing his older brother and had exchanged vows with the younger man believing she was to marry him. She now accepts she is Lanceotto’s wife, but cannot pretend to show him love. Lanceotto sets a trap. He announces he must leave for war, and commits his wife to his brother’s care. To entertain Francesca in her husband’s absence, Paolo reads her the story of Lancelot and Guinevere and, as he reads, connects the tale to their own situation. When he arrives at the point where Lancelot and Guinevere embrace and kiss, Francesca yields herself to him. At that moment, Lanceotto rushes in and stabs them both to death. As Dante and Virgil listen to the end of this story, the screams of the dying lovers mingle with the cries of all the other souls of the damned streaming past in the whirlwind. 

The two poets are left meditating on Francesca and Paolo’s refrain: ‘There is no greater sadness in the world than to remember a time of joy in a time of grief’.