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Roundtable and Book Exhibition: Ariane and Bluebeard - From Fairy Tale to Comic Book Opera

At a time when operatic productions are becoming increasingly expensive and when they are failing to attract younger audiences, TableTopOpera’s presentations of Pelléas and Mélisande (2012) and Salomé (2014) were a very cost-effective way to present great operas to the Rochester community while, at the same time, engaging with important social and aesthetic issues.  Building on that experience, TableTopOpera will present Ariane and Bluebeard (Ariane et Barbe-Bleue) at the University of Rochester in September, 2018. 

“Bluebeard” (Barbe-Bleue) was among the original stories in the Tales of Mother Goose, written by Charles Perrault (1628-1703) and first published in 1697.  In this tale, a curious wife finds the bloody corpses of Bluebeard’s previous wives, but she is saved in the nick of time from a similar fate.  This horror story was often graphically depicted and became quite popular in Europe and the United States in the 19th century.  However, there was a dramatic counter-narrative in Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (Ariane and Bluebeard), an opera by Paul Dukas, first performed in Paris in 1907, and based on the play and libretto composed from 1899-1902 by the future Nobel Laureate, Maurice Maeterlinck .  In this version, the heroine Ariane refuses to be controlled by the incomprehensible rules and prohibitions of the patriarchal Bluebeard, and she is determined to find and free the missing wives who are not dead but held in a tomb-like prison.  Maeterlinck’s Ariane and Bluebeard may be one of the earliest dramatic presentations of a modern liberated woman and a call for women’s rights, as Ariane embodies intelligence, reason, and self-reliance in the face of social restrictions and subjugation.

The Humanities Project Ariane and Bluebeard: From Fairy Tale to Comic Book Opera aims to explore the social, spiritual, and aesthetic dimensions of the Bluebeard story and opera through a roundtable, an exhibition, and a performance of the Dukas opera.  The project will draw scholars from various departments and disciplines to discuss and analyze Ariane and Bluebeard from multiple perspectives, including religion and philosophy, literature, the visual arts, music, and women and gender studies.  The exhibition at Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus will consist of various book illustrations of the Bluebeard fairy tale over the centuries, including more recent work by the comic book artist P. Craig Russell, whose graphic novel of the opera Ariane and Blue Beard will serve as the backdrop for performances of the opera by TableTopOpera.

Co-sponsored by Humanities Project at the University of Rochester, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religion & Classics, Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies, Program for Jewish Studies, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, Department of Music; and Eastman School of Music. 


1-1:10 p.m.              Introduction            Emil Homerin

1:10-1:30  p.m.        “Bluebeard, or Female Curiosity?”  Andrea Reithmayr

1:30-2:15 p.m.     “Maeterlinck, Plato, and Mysticism” 
                           Emil Homerin & Nickolas Gresens

2:30-3 p.m.           “’The wife of today will let him know who the  master is’: Women's Rights and Women's Wrongs in   Perreault, Maeterlinck, and Dukas”        Jean Pedersen
3-3:30 p.m.         “Retracing the thread: Motivic Patterns in Paul Dukas’ setting of Ariane et Barbe-bleue”     Matthew Brown

3:30-4 p.m.            “Singing Ariane”  Katherine Ciesinski

4:15-5  p.m.                “Ariane and Bluebeard: comic book opera”  P. Craig Russell 


Matthew Brown, Professor of Music Theory, Eastman School of Music
Katharine Ciesinski, Professor of Voice, Eastman School of Music
Nicholas Gresens, Associate Professor of Classics, University of Rochester
Th. Emil Homerin, Professor of Religion, University of Rochester
Jean Pedersen, Associate Professor of History, Eastman School of Music, with additional appointments in the History Department and the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Rochester
Andrea Reithmayr, Special Collections Librarian for Research & Collections, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester
 P. Craig Russell, celebrated comic and graphic artist, and recipient of the Harvey and Eisner Awards.

Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 1:00pm to 5:00pm

Rush Rhees Library, Humanities Center Conference Room D
755 Library Road, Rochester, NY 14626

Event Type

Arts and Entertainment, Exhibitions


General Public


humanities, Jewish Studies, Religion Studies

Humanities Center, Eastman School of Music
Contact Phone or Email

275-4760 or

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