This Chandos version of Bluebeard includes the spoken Prologue
which, although mainly unaccompanied and eerily bare, strongly
put me in mind of the Prologue from Berg’s Lulu. The decision
to include it is a strong one, for the music does indeed begin
at the line “The music begins”, creeping in like a shadow.
Bluebeard, John Tomlinson sings with huge authority, bringing
his long experience always to bear. There is, perhaps, a slight
sense of strain and loss of full tone in the higher reaches
of the voice these days. This is something I commented on
in a live performance of Act 3 Scene 3 of Walküre at
in 2004 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Fischer.
Here, there is some air around his phrase, “Now you see my
secret garden” that is surely not borne of expressive intent.
Yet he has amazing presence, even on disc. There were semi-staged
performances in preparation for this recording, and it shows.
Judith is another experienced singer, Sally Burgess. The interaction
between the two protagonists is mesmeric. Tomlinson’s question,
“Frightened?” is genuinely unsettling rather than hammy. Burgess
suggests, initially, a girl in love with life in her hushed,
wide-eyed curiosity, one who believes that much lies in front
of her. As the piece progresses, her varied emotions, from
fear to eerie fascination, are tellingly tracked. Burgess’s
tone can be truly beautiful also.
castles’ sighing is subtly done, implied rather than a full-on
blast from a wind machine. Orchestral textures are frequently
tellingly realised, although for the Third Door (‘Armoury’),
the orchestral contribution does not quite capture the magic
of the spectacle allegedly before Judith. The blazing tutti
chord that announces the Fifth Door (‘Bluebeard’s Kingdom’)
is captured in technicolour sound by Chandos.
just heard Boulez’s
performance of this with the London Symphony Orchestra
at the Barbican a few days ago, it is a great compliment to
Farnes and the Chandos team that they hold their own in no
uncertain terms. Boulez painted the drama more graphically,
it is true, with a more acute sense of orchestral colour while
concurrently retaining a greater sense of the whole and the
place of the moment in the ongoing drama. Yet Farnes’s version
has much going for it, not least its awareness of Bluebeard
as theatre, and if you want an English Bluebeard, this
will more than fit the bill. The translation itself (by John
Lloyd Davies) flows perfectly well. The Orchestra of Opera
North has plenty of heft when it matters, and there is also
much detail here - although not presented with the clear analytical
ear of a Boulez, admittedly.
Ashman writes a perceptive booklet note, tracing the history
of the Bluebeard myth, while drawing parallels between it
and Adam and Eve, Cupid and Psyche and even Lohengrin. An