Bartók’s one-act opera is no cakewalk for a university symphony. Roughly an hour long, the work calls for massive orchestral forces. On Friday and Saturday at Mondavi’s Jackson Hall, a total of 99 musicians will be in the orchestra pit.

I’ve never done this opera. Heck, I’ve never heard this opera! But I am trying to imagine squeezing 99 musicians into a pit. That must be one large pit, yes?

You can read more and even watch a video at that link if you want. This was done at UC Davis. They must have a strong music department there!

Here’s the opening of a performance from a while back:

Conducted by: Sir George Solti London Philharmonic Orchestra
Judith: Sylvia Sass
Bluebeard: Kolos Kováts
Directed by: Miklós Szinetár


  1. I HAVE played this opera. It’s a dark little tale: “I love you to distraction, my dear. I set the world at your feet, but whatever you do, don’t look in that closet…”

    There is a nightmare spot in the second oboe part involving an extended 16th note tremolo from low C to low C#. The only time in my career I’ve been faced with that particular problem…

  2. Sounds like a happy one! 😉

  3. Believe it or not, I also performed this with a college orchestra.

    As a freshman at Wichita State University, I was part of a performance with the school orchestra, featuring two members of the voice faculty.

    Since then, I have performed it at the MET (with fellow WSU graduate bass Samuel Ramey in the title role!)

    It is a brilliant, brilliant score. A lot of raw emotion, including down-right terror packed into that thrilling and hair-raising hour.

    Check out recording with Christa Ludwig and her then-husband d Walter Berry.

    By the way, Götterdämmerung and Elektra both require similar numbers of musicians in the pit.


  4. I was thinking about other operas that would require such a large orchestra. HOW do singers carry over all that sound? Or is it orchestrated in such a way that it’s not as difficult as I’m thinking?

    Our pit certainly couldn’t hold 99 players!

    I will definitely check out that recording, Susan. Thanks! 🙂