All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.

Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle

Mika Kares, Szilvia Vörös; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Susanna Mälkki (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
CD_BIS2388_Bartok

Bartók
Bluebeard’s Castle
Mika Kares, Szilvia Vörös; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/Susanna Mälkki
BIS BIS-2388 (CD/SACD)   60:30 mins

Given its absence of stage action, Bartók’s symbolist masterpiece goes well on disc, just as it does in the concert hall. Recorded live (with a bit of studio topping up) at the Helsinki Music Centre in January 2020, this latest version has a number of pluses. With the Hungarian libretto, the nationality of both the Judith (Szilvia Vörös) and the Prologue’s narrator (Géza Szilvay) is a clear asset, while the Finnish language – the native tongue of Mika Kares’s Bluebeard – turns out to be related to Bartók’s Hungarian. Both singers possess the scale, range and richness required to take on his sizable orchestration: the orchestra, indeed, almost represents a third character in the opera – that of Bluebeard’s castle itself.

Yet equally both Kares and Vörös offer a subtle, understated approach. Founded on his considerable depth of tone, Kares’s interpretation combines grandeur with a certain vulnerability, helping him to achieve a direct emotional response to the text and the music. Similarly, there’s a warmth and even a radiance to Vörös’s quietly determined Judith.

As well as conveying the piece’s taut structure and the orchestral writing’s sheer sweep, conductor Susanna Mälkki seeks out the detail of Bartók’s tone-painting, exploring, in her assured, potent account, the work’s sense of psychological darkness and secrecy.

Read more reviews of the latest Bartók recordings

The best opera recordings released on CD and DVD in 2021 so far

George Hall

Advertisement