• Theater Basel (map)
  • Elisabethenstrasse
  • Basel, BS, 4051
  • Switzerland


In his only completed opera, which received its world premiere in 1907, Paul Dukas, working in collaboration with the Symbolist poet Maurice Maeterlinck, presents an entirely original interpretation of the Bluebeard story, combining elements of the ancient myth of Ariadne and Charles Perrault’s fairy tale ‘La Barbe Bleue’. At its heart is Ariane, a strong, independent woman whose reason for disobeying her husband Duke Bluebeard’s instruction not to open the mysterious door in his castle goes beyond simple curiosity: she has set herself the objective of tracking down her vanished predecessors.  She discovers them, still alive, in the gloomy basement vaults of the castle and – in a manner reminiscent of Ariadne, who succeeded in freeing Theseus from the labyrinth with the aid of a red thread – leads them back out into the daylight and freedom.  However, her act of heroic liberation is ultimately doomed to failure. The released women are afraid of their unaccustomed liberty and remain behind with Bluebeard while Ariane leaves the castle alone. Then, as now, Ariane is seen as a modern woman who aspires to an independent life where she makes her own decisions, raising the question of whether an unknown and uncertain freedom might not be preferable to a life of “accustomed dependence”.

The composer Paul Dukas, described as a “Degas of the musical world” portrays Ariane with impressionist colour as ray of light and bringer of salvation and deploys brilliant instrumentation and unusual tonal colours to evoke the souls of the characters in a tense relation between freedom and dependence, light and darkness. 

This lesser-known work, one which is nevertheless greatly admired among the cognoscenti, continues the series of French masterpieces begun last season with ‘Samson et Dalila’. It is conducted by Music Director Erik Nielsen who, with an excellent cast of singers including the Swedish mezzo soprano Katarina Karnéus in the demanding title role, will transport the audience into the mysterious and fascinating world of ‘Ariane et Barbe-Bleue’.

BARBE-BLEUE Andrew Murphy 

ARIANE Katarina Karnéus 

LA NOURRICE Eve-Maud Hubeaux 

SÉLYSETTE Sofia Pavone 

YGRAINE Bryony Dwyer 


Chor des Theater Basel Es spielt das Sinfonieorchester Basel