WORKS: Ritter Blaubart
PERFORMER: David Pittman-Jennings, Arutjun Kotchinian, Robert Wörle, Celina Lindsley, Andion Fernandez; Berlin RSO/Michail Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: 999 899-2
In operatic terms, the Bluebeard story normally means only Bartók’s masterpiece. Perhaps Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-bleue or even Offenbach’s Barbe-bleue will come to mind, but probably not Grétry’s Raoul Barbe-bleue. And almost certainly not Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek’s Ritter Blaubart, premiered in Darmstadt in 1920, just two years after the appearance of Bluebeard’s Castle. These two late-Romantic works have had very different fates, and they have little in common. Rather than the concentrated spareness of Bartók’s two-hander, Reznicek’s opera is a more conventional affair with a bigger cast: among the many characters, Judith gets a sister, brother and father, and there is a Götterdämmerung-like finale in which fire destroys the castle.
This is a well constructed if hardly memorable work. The Viennese-born Reznicek (1860-1945) knew what he was doing: he held conducting posts in several important theatres and wrote over a dozen operas, of which Donna Diana was the most successful. Ritter Blaubart owes some of its style to Richard Strauss, and Michail Jurowski conducts with a real feeling for the idiom. The soprano Celina Lindsley is a fresh, focused Judith, Arutjun Kotchinian reveals a resonant bass as her father Nikolaus, and the baritone David Pittman-Jennings has commanding presence in the title role, so a lingering feeling of under-characterisation is probably not their fault. John Allison