Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider

in the first division

extraordinary by any standards

An excellent disc

a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.

Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now

A Garland for John McCabe


DIETHELM Symphonies

The best Rite of Spring in Years

BACH Magnificat

Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26

Just enjoy it!

La Mer Ticciati







CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline


Paul DUKAS (1865–1935)
Ariane et Barbe-Bleue - Opera in three acts (1907)
Deborah Polaski (soprano) – Ariane; Jane Henschel (mezzo) – La Nourrice; Kwangchul Youn (bass) – Barbe-Bleue; Ruxandra Donose (mezzo) – Sélysette; Stella Grigorian (mezzo) – Bellangère; Ileana Tonka (soprano) – Ygraine; Nina Bernsteiner (soprano) – Mélisande; Ante Jerkunica (bass) – Le Vieux Paysan; Erik Årman (tenor) – 2nd Paysan; Markus Raab (bass) – 3rd Paysan;
Slovak Philharmonic Choir, Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien/Bertrand de Billy
rec. live, Wiener Konzerthaus, 5 May 2006
French libretto with German and English translations enclosed
OEHMS CLASSICS OC915 [69:42 + 46:33]
Experience Classicsonline

To most ‘ordinary’ classical music listeners Paul Dukas is synonymous with L'apprenti sorcier (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) (1897), based on Goethe's poem "Der Zauberlehrling”. Its vivid story-telling and colourful orchestration made it very popular and an attractive show-piece for good orchestras. Through Walt Disney’s Fantasia it also reached audiences far beyond the traditional classical public. But he wasn’t just a ‘one-work-composer’. He was at least periodically quite prolific but also extremely self-critical and only a handful of works were ever published. His Symphony in C (1896) is a splendid work in three movements. His last work of any importance, the oriental ballet La Péri should attract lovers of colourful orchestral music. There is an excellent disc with Leonard Slatkin and Orchestre National de France, comprising the three works mentioned above, plus a Fanfare to be played before the ballet (BMG 09026 68802 2).
His sole opera, Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, is based on a French fairy-tale which originally appeared in Charles Perrault’s Contes de ma mêre l’Oye (1697) and also found its way into the first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1812). The libretto was written by Maurice Maeterlinck, who was very much á la mode around the turn of the last century. Debussy’s only opera Pélleas et Melisande, with which Dukas’s work has similarities, was an abridged version of Maeterlinck’s successful play. The story has been set by others: Offenbach’s three-act operetta Barbe-Bleue (1866) and Bëla Bartók’s one-act opera Duke Bluebeard’s Castle (composed 1911, premiered 1918) are the best known, I suppose. Compared to Bartók’s dark expressionist work with only two characters – Blue-Beard and Judith, where Blue-Beard in his loneliness is easy to pity – in Dukas’s opera the evil Blue-Beard is marginalised. It is the mentally strong Ariane who dominates the proceedings but her sisters in misfortune also play important parts. As is hinted at in the accompanying notes, the opera might be seen as an early contribution to the Women’s Lib movement - in its infancy at the time. In the last resort, however, it is only Ariadne who chooses freedom and leaves the castle whereas the other wives stay.
Dukas’s music for this drama has influences from Debussy and Wagner but it is darker and more overtly dramatic than Debussy’s, which I have always found a little too perfumed. Brilliant orchestrator that he was, Dukas uses the full orchestral palette to stunning effect. Although he is basically an impressionist – but with more luminous colours and sharper outlines – he doesn’t fight shy of more expressionist language. Generally this is a musically strong and dramatically taut work and those who claim that, next to Pelléas et Mélisande, it is the best 20th century French opera have a lot going for their argument. Personally I would still vote for Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. Where Dukas especially impresses is in the dramatic choral scenes, as in the opening of the opera. The women’s chorus in the last act and the purely orchestral music – not least the heartrending Prélude to act two – are extremely engaging.
Bertrand de Billy is a strong advocate for the work in this live recording from a concert performance in the Vienna Concert Hall. The sound is vivid enough and chorus and orchestra are splendid. It might be seen as a drawback, maybe, that neither is a French ensemble and that among the soloists there isn’t a single native French speaker. Only the Paris-born conductor has the right credentials. Those who must have the Gallic flavour should know that there is – or at least has been – a purely French recording on Erato under Armin Jordan and with Gabriel Bacquier as Barbe-Bleue. That said, I found the present cast highly convincing.
Any performance of this opera stands or falls with the role of Ariane. Deborah Polaski may have been a little past her best, showing some unsteadiness early in the performance but she grows during the evening. In the sensual Wagnerian finale, the celebrated Isolde is truly magnificent. Jane Henschel evades disappointment and she is an impressive Nurse. Well established names like Ruxandra Donose and Stella Grigorian live up to their reputations. The young Ileana Tonka and Nina Bernsteiner are excellent in their roles. Kwangchul Youn also does what he can with Barbe-Bleue’s rather chopped about part.
Dukas’s only opera has never really won a foothold in the standard repertoire but it is well worth the acquaintance. With the prospects for live performances rather limited the present recording is a worthy substitute.
Göran Forsling


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.