Mitochondrial Vertigo

April 22, 2010

The Blood Countess – (Monsters) Opera, Woman and History

Filed under: Madame Bathory — Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu @ 1:26 am
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My awareness of Elizabeth Bathory came via my wife’s wonderful fascination with the great (real) Draculas of the past. When I say Draculas I mean only the acute figures of history upon which we may project all sorts of our desires/fears of the monstrous. I will not relate the historical facts of the serial murderess Elizabeth Bathory, most of which can be found at or wikipedia.  It is enough to say that she was quite prodigious as a murderess, and perhaps an inadvertant author of her own myth, the most extraordinary image from which is the lasting picture of her bathing in the blood of virgins. This curiosity was strengthened by the rather odd coincidence that my wife looks rather like countess Bathory herself, or at least more like her than not (an accident that did not play into her initial interest as she had little idea what she looked like). When she wears her Bathory t-shirt (and yes, there is a Bathory t-shirt or two available), it’s as if she herself were dressed in 16th century garb, her appearance a bit dulled by the travel back in time into aristocracy. Because my wife also believes she shares perhaps a bit in psychology with the distant ruler, the interest becomes quixotic.

Well, you can judge for yourself from this usual snapshot of her and five historical images we have of Bathory.

But the reason for this post is not a prurient interest in historical monstrous women, or an intellectual interest in the kinds of things that make up the category “monstrous women” – it is compelling though that Vlad the Impaler captured the Western mind more than our Bathory – but rather that an Opera that is being formed. We some time ago wrote to Dennis Bathory-Kitsz who organized a website dedicated to the memory of E. Bathory, and who happens to count himself a descendant. I think we were trying to find out more about the historical woman, separating out fact from myth, and ended up on his mailing list. Today though he emailed us out of the blue as part of his campaign to raise funds to complete his opera on this bedeviled woman. Below is his video pitch for the project and I have to say that his enthusiasm, dedication and overall humor just thrills me.

I love the idea he takes up that the musicians are waiting. We can almost hear the pit humming out of tune. Is it not just like this before the “event” (that fashionable word these days). All the instruments are whining and honking and cacophony floats like a sour flavor. We do not realize that the musicians are waiting. I wish more of art was made like this, partially written, with dedicated others already committed, just waiting for the influx of living interest to push it towards conception, in the way a film creates its own momentum having been already half-shot and the studios can’t quite decide if they can afford to shut it down, where everything is moving scaffolding. I have a weakness as well for the power of opera and play, the imagination that if something is performed in the world, no matter how isolatedly, it changes things, it sets off a detonation of aesthetic and intellectual effects. I hope some of you would find it in your heart to donate to this worthily conceived project of many of his years (or if bloggists, forward the thought). Perhaps there is the thin chance that I will see you at the opera. 

Prayer of Erzsebet

Help me, O Clouds.
O Clouds, stay by me.
Let no harm come to me.
Let me remain healthy and invincible.

Send, O send, you powerful Clouds, ninety cats.
I command you, O King of the Cats, I pray you.
May you gather them together,
     even if you are in the mountains,
     or on the waters,
     or on the roofs,
     or on the other side of the ocean.
May these ninety cats appear to tear and destroy
          the hearts
     of kings and princes,
And in the same way
          the hearts
     of teachers and judges,
     so they shall harm me not.

Holy Trinity, protect me.

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