Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok
LABELS: Denon
WORKS: Bluebeard’s Castle
PERFORMER: Katalin Szendrényi, Falk Struckmann, Sándor LukácsFrankfurt RSO/Eliahu Inbal
CATALOGUE NO: CO-78932 DDD
In several ways, Bartók’s only opera represents a more violent counterpart to Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. The libretto, by Béla Balázs, was inspired by Maeterlinck’s dramatisation of the old Barbe-Bleue tale. Moreover, both Debussy’s and Bartók’s operas share the same airless, claustrophobic quality of intensely heightened emotion that characterises late pre-Raphaelite and Symbolist painting. At the same time, the weird sustained trilling flute identified with Judith evokes the rotted moral atmosphere of Strauss’s Salome.

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This recording, made at Frankfurt’s Alte Oper in September 1992 is vivid and compelling. Katalin Szendrényi is a sympathetic Judith, though her approach emphasises the cool restraint of admirable vocal polish rather than involved acting. Falk Struckmann’s Bluebeard, a bronze-toned bass-baritone, vividly conveys the image of unbridled virility and the monstrous lust to possess his women. Conductor Eliahu Inbal delivers an extroverted reading of the score, opulent and substantial in its orchestral coloration. And Denon has done him justice, capturing, for example, the almost Straussian Zarathustra-like weight and spaciousness that the orchestra achieves in the brazen section wherein Judith begins to open the doors to blood-red visions. Barrymore Laurence Scherer