A fine and spacious land

For Terka Giricz

Listen, there is a story to be told –…..
a tale that’s been hidden away
Now where shall I find it?
Once upon a time…

Was it outside or inside?
there was an old legend.
What does it mean,

my lords and fine ladies?
Now as the song begins,
You watch me, watching you.
The curtain of our eyelashes opens.
Where is the stage?
Outside us or within,
lords and fine ladies?

We watch each other,
closely, as the song begins
Who knows where it comes from?
Listen to it, wonder at it,
my lords and ladies.

Béla Balázs – Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s castle, The fifth door
Bluebeard: Robert Lloyd, Judith: Elizabeth Laurence
The London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ádám Fischer, 1988

Terracotta head of Hades from Sicily, 4th century BC
Museo Archeologico di Aidone. Source: The J. Paul Getty Museum


This terracotta head comes from Morgantina in Sicily and originally belonged to a larger statue. It was looted in the late 1970s and sold on the international art market, and eventually acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu in 1985. Its original findspot was identified when missing fragments of the beard and the hair were discovered in the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone in Morgantina. The J. Paul Getty Museum then returned the statue to Italy, where it is now displayed in the Museum of Aidone, a small town near the site.

The bearded male head was placed on the art market alongside a female head of similar size, style and execution. It was obvious that the two heads belonged together, and that they represented Persephone and Hades as their cult was widespread in ancient Sicily, their place of origin. The statue is thus a rare monumental representation of the king of the Underworld. His curly hair and commanding features are reminiscent of the images of Zeus and Poseidon, but his beard is blue, a colour closely associated with the sphere of the Underworld in Italic cultures (see, for example, the Etruscan tomb frescoes or Apulian vases). The colour of the beard has special significance in Bluebeard’s legend as well: it symbolizes rejection by society, and – as in Bartók’s opera – isolation and solitude.

Poem: The bard’s prologue from Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (excerpt), translated by Sarah Distin. The featured image was created using Gary Turner’s photo, source: flickr.com / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.


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