Sony Classical announces a further batch of complete recordings from the CBS/Sony and RCA Victor catalogues. The newest installment of this popular series features some unusual repertoire as well as documents of the New York Metropolitan Opera in its postwar heyday. Columbia’s 1960 recording of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle features American singers. Though it is sung in English, its authentic Hungarian quality is guaranteed by the conductor, Budapest-born Eugene Ormandy. “Rosalind Elias … makes a splendidly passionate Judith. … The Philadelphia Orchestra comes into its own at the opening of the various doors – especially the Second, where the dazzling brilliance of Bluebeard’s treasure-chamber is vividly depicted” (Gramophone). Read more />
Who knew that in 1960, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra took a swipe at Bluebeard’s Castle for Columbia, in English no less? Maybe it’s because of the language, or perhaps it’s hearing the work rendered with sizzling vividness by the Fabulous Philadelphians, but this is a performance devoid all of that fuzzy, shadowy, impressionist murk that we’re so used to in this piece. You might be forgiven for thinking that the two excellent soloists, Rosalind Elias and Jerome Hines, were offering the sequel to Cavalleria rusticana–that’s how forthright and passionate this performance is.
This is just tremendous fun. If you know and love this work, you will definitely want to hear this release because, however unidiomatically it may strike you, it is, in its way, a great performance, glamorously recorded.
Bluebeard's Castle, Op. 11/Sz 48by Béla Bartók Performer:
Rosalind Elias (Mezzo Soprano),
Jerome Hines (Bass)
Period: 20th Century Written: 1911/1918; Budapest, Hungary
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
old favoriteOctober 27, 2018By john m. (mansfield, PA)See All My Reviews"I discovered this work about 60 years ago in the Washington D.C. library. The recording was produced by the Bartok Record Society, and was sung in Hungarian. As I recall, the biggest difference between that recording and the Ormandy is a spoken intro in that old recording which is not present in the Ormandy. It sounded like a witch speaking, and was really NASTY. The two singers on the Ormandy disc are superior. Jerome Hines was a fantastic bass.The sound is excellent. This work was a great intro to the Bartok world for me; the harmonies are fairly tame.If you don't know this work, buy this recording."Report Abuse
Early stereo era magnificenceMay 4, 2018By Brad Alan Deamer (Buffalo, NY)See All My Reviews"Recorded in 1960, this performance of Bartok's opera is sung in a quite good English translation. The recorded sound is remarkable for its age. The voices of the singers are perhaps unnaturally closely miked, but not at the expense of orchestral detail. And the orchestral execution could scarcely be improved on. Ormandy's reading is brooding yet intense, building to searing climaxes. The big, dark, roomy bass of Justine Hines and the warm, vibrant mezzo of Rosalind Elias, with its easy access to the top, are well suited to their respective roles. Unless you insist on hearing this opera sung in its original Hungarian, this performance is a winner, I'd recommend it as a supplement to one of the Hungarian-language recordings."Report Abuse
Hines' "Bluebeard's Castle" great but unevenMarch 29, 2018By Art Music Lady See All My Reviews"The decision to record this dark and somewhat unpopular work in English was probably made by Goddard Lieberson, Columbias classical music guru. Im sure he thought the recording would sell better to a non-specialist public if sung in their own language. Normally, Im not a fan of opera in any language but the originalunless the composer himself made adjustments for another language, as Verdi and Wagner did when their operas were sung in Francefor the simple reason that composers had the specific syllabic distribution of words in mind when they wrote the music, and therefore the music itself often has to change when a translation is used, but in this case whoever made the English translation did a very good job. For this 1962 Columbia recording, the label hired two American operatic stars of the time away from RCA Victor for this project. Bass Jerome Hines had been a star at the Met since the early 1950s whereas young mezzo-soprano Rosalind Elias was still considered up-and-coming at the time. The decision to record this dark and somewhat unpopular work in English was probably made by Goddard Lieberson, Columbias classical music guru. Im sure he thought the recording would sell better to a non-specialist public if sung in their own language. Normally, Im not a fan of opera in any language but the originalunless the composer himself made adjustments for another language, as Verdi and Wagner did when their operas were sung in Francefor the simple reason that composers had the specific syllabic distribution of words in mind when they wrote the music, and therefore the music itself often has to change when a translation is used, but in this case whoever made the English translation did a very good job. The one problem on this set, however, is Ormandys conducting. Though Hungarian, he seems not to have had much of an affinity for Bartóks score. The tempi are consistently brisk and he keeps the music flowing properly, but although he is dramatic he fails to draw out the kind of dark menace that Antal Doráti, Istvan Kertesz, Rafael Kubelik and Georg Solti brought to it. The result is a Bluebeards Castle with tremendous drama emanating from the bass and a fair amount of intensity coming from the mezzo, but only intermittent menace and mystery from the orchestra. Yet Hines in particular was such an interesting vocal actor, and made so few recordings to show he was as great in that department as Hans Hotter, that one is loath to cast this one aside and discount it because of the language choice and the conducting. It is clearly not a first choice, but far from superfluous or uninteresting. On the contrary, Hines keeps you so wrapped up in to the richness of his voice and the nuance of his interpretation that youll return to it again to find even more in the performance than you heard the first time. He will make you forget Samuel Rameys beautifully-sung but two-dimensional recording, and Elias is no slouch, either; shes almost as good a Judith as Troyanos, and thats saying quite a bit. --Lynn Rene Bayley, The Art Music Lounge"Report Abuse