Notes and Editorial Reviews
Bluebeard's Castle is a difficult opera to cast. Bluebeard himself must either be a bass who can get up to a high F or a baritone who can get down to low G. In the former category, to which Samuel Ramey belongs, the usual risks are that he will sound unsuitably fatherly or will be uncomfortably tense in the upper register. Ramey avoids both hazards with ease: he combines gravity with believable youth, and has no problems with the upper reaches of the part. His is a slightly cool, reserved, soft-grained Bluebeard, there is no swell of homage in the last scene when he hails his former wives as "immortal, unforgotten", but you may well prefer his sobriety to Fischer-Dieskau's meticulous but at times melodramatic expressive shading of
every syllable. And in the grand phrases describing his kingdom, between the brazen paeans that follow the opening of the fifth door, Ramey sustains the majestically slow tempo set by Adam Fischer quite superbly.
Judith, more awkwardly still, should really be a mezzo with a top C, not a soprano with a serviceable extension down into the mezzo range. Marton is the latter, and a soprano with a distinct cutting edge to her tone at times, as well as a flutter that can become ungainly under pressure. But she is convincingly ardent and womanly, acts well (real passion and urgency to the scene before the opening of the seventh door) and uses both her words and an effective mezzo voce with intelligence: this is the best recorded performance I have heard from her.
The slowness of the music for the fifth door is characteristic of Fischer's approach to the score. So is its colour (dominated by the brass, not by the organ) and the fact that it is manifestly not the opera's summit: the hugest climaxes in this account are on either side of the seventh door, and Fischer leads up to the first of them with a tension that is increased rather than diminished by his deliberate tempo and his measured silences. It is a less overtly dramatic account than some (than Sawallisch's, say), with pictorial details less vividly coloured, but it has an impressive brooding solemnity and a greater sense than most readings of a drama emerging from and receding into darkness.
-- Gramophone [9/1988]
Works on This Recording
Bluebeard's Castle, Op. 11/Sz 48 by Béla Bartók
Eva Martón (Soprano),
Samuel Ramey (Bass)
Hungarian State Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1911/1918; Budapest, Hungary
Length: 62 Minutes 0 Secs.
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