Libretto by Béla Balász; English version by Chester Kallman (H,E,G)
S,B, 3mimes, speaker (optional)
Often now well paired with Schoenberg’s Erwartung or Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, Bartók’s opera was originally performed as a companion work to his ballet, The Wooden Prince. His librettist, Béla Balázs, wanted “to depict a modern soul in the primary colours of folksong”. The partnership worked better here, dramatically and musically, than in their balletic collaboration a few years later. As the opera lasts for under one hour, involves only two singing voices, and is a psychological drama, concert performances are also highly effective.
Note by Malcolm Gillies