Blue Beard : a very actual fairy-tale

Novoceram News
  • 20 September 2012

As we explained to you in our article about the futur stand Barbebleue, the story told this year at Cersaie comes from the famous fairy-tale wroten by Charles Perrault, issued in 1697, Blue Beard, that raised many thoughts in our childhood. This tale tells how a rich and impressive man, with a blue beard, gives to his umpteenth wife (all his 7 previous wives disapppeared without explainings), the keys of his castle during his absence. But he forbids her to use the key that opens a little room where he hides a mysterious secret. “Open them all; go into each and every one of them, except that little closet, which I forbid you, and forbid it in such a manner that, if you happen to open it, you may expect my just anger and resentment.” This story provokes many different interpretations, so it is rich in symbolism and metaphor : cupidity, women’s curiosity, obediance,  secrets. The character himself was compared to mythics or historic characters, like King Henry VIII who made disappear in dark circumstances two of his wives.

Blue Beard

But this tale, quite moralistic, was not an inspiring influence only for Novoceram : as the moment is on the point to be set up, we learn that the famous Belgian writer, Amélie Nothomb is publicating his last book : Barbe Bleu where her two characters are roommates in a luxury Parisian flat. In her interview by Fran9ois Busnel in La Grande Librairie (47th minute), the writer explains that she did not agree with 2 aspects, and the most important, of the moral of the story : above all, Nothomb will fight for the right of everybody to have a secret. Second point is that the wives int he tale were all stupid women. In her novel, Barbe Bleue will be treated wtih moure humanism ? The heroin will be characterized by more pragmatism…without reveal the end.

Then, many other musical, artistic or cinamtic works of the XIX and XXth century confimr that Barbe Bleue is still actual. For example, the next Opera of the Orchestre de Paris will perform, The castel of Blue beard, from Bela Bartok, performed by Matthias Goerne, baritone.
You can see in this video how the performer tried to understand the hungarian text to pass the key moments of the story on in the best way possible. In 1988, the famous choregraph Pina Bausch signed the choregraphy of this Bartok Opera wtih Pierre Boulez of which you can see some extracts here.

Barbe Bleue

On cinema too, famous actors played the role of Barbe Bleue. Let’s take for example two films, inspired by the tale, but that give two oppposite interpretations of the moral. On the one side, the film, Blue Beard, from Edward Dmytryk, 1972, with Richard Burton and Raquel Welsch moves away from the fairy-tale for children and offers a version where the Perrault’s moral is completely inversed : Barbe bleue is the victim of his wives.

Fairy tale

On the other side, the elegant comedy from Ernst Lubitsch, The 8th wife of Blue Beard, with Gary Cooper et Claudette Colbert, where the bloody aspects of the story were suppressed, as in the scenography of Novoceram’s stand at Cersaie12. The wife herself takes the upper hand. After having learnt that her husband was divorced seventimes, she tries to gain the eternal love of his husband to be the eighth but least wife of the man that she wants to win for life.

The novel character provokes many artistic images so that he influences the imagination of artists.


Here you can see the pictures of Maurizio Quarello who designed, as a real film director, very explicit and relevant images where the mysterious and gloomy ambiance around the characters is immediately perceptible.

To conclude in the original child universe, we show the example of the sing Barbe Bleue performed by Chantal Goya.
In this film, Carlos played the role of Blue Beard.

Finally, the Blue Beard’s myth is rich of teachings and an inspiring influence that is not going to run dry.
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