"The Light shines in the darkness, and darkness has not understood it." (John I, 5)

Introduction

Maeterlink's poem was already far from Perrault's fairy tale. Dukas' music goes farther still... Ariane stands for the Light of Truth. Bluebeard for the world. The peasants are humanity rebelling against the world's suffering. The wives represent humanity dulled by external sensations, numbed by mysteries it neither can nor wishes to penetrate, chained to habit forcing it to prefer the suffering it is familiar with to joys it does not know... If I were asked what I prefer in Ariane and Bluebeard, I would mention the scene with precious gems, the mysterious and Gothic song of the Maids of Orlamonde, the brutal and angry surging of the peasants' revolt in the third act, Bluebeard's liberation, and finally the sad and noble strains which end the score. But above everything else I would mention that fantastic crescendo going from dark to light which makes the second act not only Paul Dukas' masterpiece, but one of the masterpieces of all music.

Olivier Messiaen
"Ariane et Barbe-bleue de Paul Dukas," Revue musicale, no. 166 (1936)