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Photo: Gert Kiermeyer
Opernhaus Halle, 2003

Offenbach - Keck

Barbe-Bleue (OEK critical edition) (1866)

Duration: 150 minutes
Opéra-bouffe in three acts (four scenes)

Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy; original German version by Julius Hopp; new German versions by Stefan Troßbach, Carsten Golbeck or Wolfgang Quetes; revised English lyrics by Richard Duployen (F,G,E)

S,M(S),2T,BuffoT,T(Bar),Bar,BBar; smaller roles: 5S,3M,speaking role; chorus; ballet; 2(II=picc).1.2.1-; Viennese orchestration: 2(II=picc).2.2.2-
Abbreviations (PDF)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
Théâtre des Variétés, Paris
Company: unknown

World premiere of version
Opernhaus, Halle
Stefan Huber, director
Conductor: Harald Knauff
Company: Ensemble Oper Halle


KNIGHT RAOUL, the Bluebeard Tenor
HELOISE, ROSALINDE, ISAURE, BLANCHE and ELEONORE, his 5 wives 2 Sopranos and 3 Mezzo Sopranos
POPOLANI, alchemist in Bluebeard's serviceHigh Baritone
QUEEN CLEMENTINE, his wifeLow Soprano
HERMIA, her daughter (peasant woman in the 1st act under the name of FLEURETTE)Soubrette Soprano
OSCAR, minister of the king Bass Baritone
BOULOTTE, peasant womanMezzo Soprano (Vienna: Soprano)
ALVAREZTenor or Baritone
2 peasant womenSopranos
2 pagesSopranos
A childspeaking role
A scribe
Peasant men and women, guards of Bluebeard, court people, pages and guards of Bobèche

Time and Place
Medieval town; Bobèche's castle; vault of Bluebeard's castle

While out horse-riding, Prince Saphir has fallen in love with the flower-girl Fleurette. He has disguised himself as a shepherd and settled incognito in her vicinity so as to be near her. Fleurette is also in love with him, but she complains that he has not yet sorted out the ‘big question’ – marriage. The jaunty Boulotte fancies Saphir as well; instead of bothering with the ‘big question’ though, she would like to seduce him on the spot.

King Bobèche, unable to tolerate the thought of an heiress to the throne, abandoned his daughter Hermia long ago at the tender age of three. Now that his son, born afterwards, has gone his own way, the king remembers his daughter. He gives his minister Oscar 24 hours in which to find her. In the village square Oscar bumps into Popolani, a friend from his youth, who is employed as an alchemist with Knight Bluebeard. It is Popolani’s job to administer poison to the Knight’s wives on request (at least Bluebeard believes that he poisons them) and has just been ordered to find a new one. Boulotte, having drawn the first prize at Popolani’s lottery of virtue, in which all the girls of the village took part, is brought to Bluebeard. Oscar discovers by accident that Fleurette is in fact Princess Hermia and reunites her happily with the king and queen. Now that the problem with the royal estate has been solved, Saphir reveals himself to be a prince, thus removing the last obstacle to the wedding. Bluebeard appears at the royal wedding with Boulotte who, in the meantime, has become his sixth wife, and he immediately falls in love with Princess Hermia. He decides to get rid of Boulotte that very evening and to make Hermia his no. 7. Naturally things take a different course…


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