Erzsebet: The Blood Countess

Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous Blood Countess of 17th-century Hungary, could be called history’s busiest female serial killer. She and four accomplices were accused of torturing and murdering more than 600 young women: servants, peasant girls, even daughters of minor nobility sent to Elizabeth’s court as a sort of finishing school. (And no, I’m not going to make that pun. LOL) Some stories claim that, in a desperate attempt to revive her fading beauty, Elizabeth bathed in the blood of virgins.

Sounds like a great subject for an opera, doesn’t it?

Her (indirect) descendent, composer Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, thinks so, too.  Nearly 25 years ago, he began researching Elizabeth Bathory’s life with thoughts of writing an opera based on her story. He’s nearly there. Erzsebet: The Opera is nearly finished. It’s part of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble’s 2010-2011 season. But not quite everything has fallen into place. As so often happens with the arts, the problem is money.  As Bathory-Kitsz writes, “support is needed for the singer, additional musicians, staging, costumes, lighting, and time to complete the remaining 40 minutes of the opera.”

I pledged support for Erzsebet: The Opera at Kickstarter, where the project has less than a day left to meet its fund-raising goal. Kickstarter is a great site, where you can sponsor all kinds of projects, from Web comics to community projects to performance art to opera and other kinds of music, for as little as a $1 or $2 donation. Click this link to learn about the history of Bathory-Kitsz’s quest to turn Elizabeth Bathory’s story into an opera, and to listen to some of the haunting music he’s written so far.

The way Kickstarter works, if a project doesn’t meet its fundraising goal within the specified time frame, none of the money that people have pledged is collected. That would be a pity in this case, where people have agreed to put up over 70% of the needed funds. Take a look and see if you’d like to contribute a couple of bucks. For that little, you can download a recording of the performance and get your name in the program. Or find another project that you’d like to support. There are so many great ideas out there, and never enough money, it seems, to bring them to life.

I know opera isn’t everyone’s thing. For myself, though, I’d really love to see this opera performed. It’s a perfect subject, and what I’ve heard of the music is beautiful.

UPDATE: The opera didn’t get funded through Kickstarter (time ran out), but Dennis Bathory-Kitsz has set up his website to accept donations. He tells me that the opera is committed to three performances in Vermont in the fall of 2011. The only question is whether he’ll get funding from backers or whether he’ll pay the necessary costs out of his own pocket.  I donated, and I plan to see the opera when it’s performed next year. Glad to hear it’s on!


About nancyholzner

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