Paul DUKAS (1865-1935)
Ariane Et Barbe-Bleue - opera in three acts (1907) [116:15]
Ariane - Deborah Polaski (soprano)
Nurse - Jane Henschel (contralto)
Bluebeard - Kwangchul Youn (bass)
Sélysette - Ruxandra Donose (contralto)
Bellangère - Stella Grigorian (soprano)
Ygraine - Ileana Tonka (soprano)
Mélisande - Nina Bernsteiner (soprano)
An Old Peasant - Ante Jerkunica (bass)
Second Peasant - Erik Årman (tenor)
Third Peasant - Markus Raab (bass)
Slovak Philharmonic Choir/Blanka Juhanakova
Radio-Symphonyorchester Wien/Bertrand De Billy
rec. live, Wiener Konzerthaus, 5 May 2006
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 94254 [69:42 + 46:33]
Alternative recording from Telarc
The French composer, Paul Dukas, was not prolific though he had composed a symphony, ballets, and L’apprenti Sorcier (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). His full-length opera, Ariane et Barbe-Bleue was completed in 1907 and premiered in May of that year at the Opéra Comique in Paris. It tells the story of Duke Bluebeard, a tale that made the basis for operas set by Offenbach, Bartók and Reznicek. In the Dukas version, the drama is focused on Ariane. The entire opera is female-dominated as Ariane takes her fate into her own hands after unsuccessfully trying to convince the other incarcerated wives to follow her to freedom from Bluebeard.
Listeners will find the same attention to detail and colour in this work as Dukas’s more famous, L’apprenti sorcier. Ariane et Barbe-Bleue is a sombre work full of colour, mysticism, and beautiful melodies. It has often been compared to Debussy's opera, Pelléas et Mélisande (1902). I also find similarities to the orchestral impressions in Stravinsky’s seminal Firebird and Rimsky-Korsakov’s le coq d'or. There is also some of the same elegant nobility found in Wagner’s Parsifal.
The overall impression of the work is somewhat subdued but as it builds dramatically there are moments of great orchestral and vocal virtuosity. Notice in Act 1, movement 10, “Ariane, que faites-vous?” what a glorious ascent there is to the climax. The unfolding drama happens more inside the character’s head rather than outward.
This is such a lovely opera but it’s full of the sort of solemn refinement one would expect from a composer as refined as Dukas. This performance could, however, have benefited from a greater sense of mystery. Just imagine what this would have sounded like had Stokowski conducted it.
There are many marvellous moments from the Slovak Philharmonic Choir and Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien. The singing by Deborah Polaski in the title role is exemplary ranging from determined to fearful. There is a nice sense of vulnerability to her voice that lends itself well to the story. The recording has good stereo separation - female chorus clearly on the left and men on the right - and the audio has clarity with a wide dynamic range.
The soloists are well blended with the chorus and orchestra, though, I would have preferred the soloists being a touch more prominent in the mix.
The performance is first rate and there is little or no evidence that what we hear emanates from a live concert performance.
The English and German liner notes are not extensive and unfortunately there is no libretto.
see also review of same recording (Oehms OC915) by Göran Forsling
Sombre but with moments of great orchestral and vocal virtuosity.