Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Channel Classics
WORKS: Bluebeard’s Castle
PERFORMER: László Polgár, Ildikó Komlósi; Budapest Festival Orchestra/ Iván Fischer

Although Bartók’s only opera is well represented in the recording catalogue, all-Hungarian versions such as this one remain a rarity. Iván Fischer’s performance was originally issued by Philips, but has been unavailable for some time, and its reappearance on Channel Classics is welcome. Hungarian singers have the advantage of being able to deliver Bartók’s vocal lines with a subtle rhythmic flexibility that’s difficult for a non-native cast to emulate.
The late László Polgár makes a compassionate Bluebeard, imbuing the part with an appropriate sense of resignation and regret, while mezzo-soprano Ildikó Komlósi sings the role of Judith with admirable insight.
Fischer conducts with meticulous care for detail, and has even managed to procure a keyboard xylophone – the rare instrument Bartók specifies for the torture-chamber scene. Fischer also provides a compelling account of the spoken verse which prefaces the opera – he reads it himself, in a manner that respects its nature as an interior monologue. In sum, while there may have been more spectacular versions of this great work, none is more thoroughly idiomatic than Fischer’s. Misha Donat