Author Topic: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle  (Read 30436 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« on: January 25, 2011, 01:19:26 PM »

BARTOK

BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE




-THE PLOT-

The basic plot is loosely based on the folk tale "Bluebeard", but is given a heavily psychological reworking—some would say psychoanalytic or psychosexual, (see Bruno Bettelheim and The Uses of Enchantment).
Place: A huge, dark hall in a castle, with seven locked doors.
Time: Not defined.

Judith and Bluebeard arrive at his castle, which is all dark. Bluebeard asks Judith if she wants to stay and even offers her an opportunity to leave, but she decides to stay. Judith insists that all the doors be opened, to allow light to enter into the forbidding interior, insisting further that her demands are based on her love for Bluebeard. Bluebeard refuses, saying that they are private places not to be explored by others, and asking Judith to love him but ask no questions. Judith persists, and eventually prevails over his resistance.

The first door opens to reveal a torture chamber, stained with blood. Repelled, but then intrigued, Judith pushes on. Behind the second door is a storehouse of weapons, and behind the third a storehouse of riches. Bluebeard urges her on. Behind the fourth door is a secret garden of great beauty; behind the fifth, a window onto Bluebeard's vast kingdom. All is now sunlit, but blood has stained the riches, watered the garden, and grim clouds throw blood-red shadows over Bluebeard's kingdom.

Bluebeard pleads with her to stop: the castle is as bright as it can get, and will not get any brighter, but Judith refuses to be stopped after coming this far, and opens the penultimate sixth door, as a shadow passes over the castle. This is the first room that has not been somehow stained with blood; a silent silvery lake is all that lies within, "a lake of tears". Bluebeard begs Judith to simply love him, and ask no more questions. The last door must be shut forever. But she persists, asking him about his former wives, and then accusing him of having murdered them, suggesting that their blood was the blood everywhere, that their tears were those that filled the lake, and that their bodies lie behind the last door. At this, Bluebeard hands over the last key.

Behind the door are Bluebeard's three former wives, but still alive, dressed in crowns and jewellery. They emerge silently, and Bluebeard, overcome with emotion, prostrates himself before them and praises each in turn, finally turning to Judith and beginning to praise her as his fourth wife. She is horrified, begs him to stop, but it is too late. He dresses her in the jewellery they wear, which she finds exceedingly heavy. Her head drooping under the weight, she follows the other wives along a beam of moonlight through the seventh door. It closes behind her, and Bluebeard is left alone as all fades to total darkness.

[Article taken from Wikipedia]

What do all you guys think about this opera? I've been obsessing over it ever since I bought Istvan Kertesz's LSO recording with Christa Ludwig and Walter Berry. The whole experience is bone-chilling. It's very different for an opera as well where it's more about psychological drama. Do you guys have any favorite recordings of this work?
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 07:22:34 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline MDL

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2011, 02:52:34 PM »
I love this opera to bits, although it disturbed me deeply the first time I heard it. I've got a few recordings and the Solti video. My favourites are:



And:



I've not heard the Kertész, which I understand is very good.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2011, 02:54:50 PM by MDL »

Drasko

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2011, 03:04:36 PM »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2011, 03:06:25 PM »
I love this opera to bits, although it disturbed me deeply the first time I heard it. I've got a few recordings and the Solti video. My favourites are:



And:



I've not heard the Kertész, which I understand is very good.

The Kertesz is mandatory listening as far as I'm concerned if this gives you a clue about how much I love it! ;) But seriously, it's a legendary performance no doubt about it. Every Bartok fan I've spoken with holds this recording deep to their hearts. I would love to get the Haitink, but it's way too expensive and unfortunately out-of-print, but I have my eyes for sure.

[The following is a copy-and-paste from the Bartok thread that I posted]

So far I have three excellent recordings of Bluebeard's Castle:

-Kertesz, Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, LSO, Decca
-Eotvos, Cornelia Kallisch, Peter Fried, SWR Radio Symphony Orch., Hanssler Classic
-Boulez, Jessye Norman, Laszlo Polgar, CSO, DG

The dark horse of the three that I own so far is the Eotvos. This is unbelievably good performance. Both vocalists, whom were both unknown to me, have the right weight in their voices for their roles. Cornelia Kallisch, in particular, has a beautiful voice. Peter Fried sung a fantastic Bluebeard and, so far, is one of the best ones I've heard since Berry. The orchestral accompaniment from Eotvos and the SWR Orchestra will leave you breathless. Although this performance didn't get a lot of press, for whatever reason, I think it gives the classic Kertesz a run for its money.

Yesterday night I bought two more recordings of Bluebeard:

-Fischer, Eva Marton, Samuel Ramey, Hungarian State Orch., Sony
-Gergiev, Elena Zhidkova, Willard White, LSO Live
« Last Edit: January 25, 2011, 03:08:18 PM by Mirror Image »
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Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2011, 06:16:25 PM »
The dark horse of the three that I own so far is the Eotvos. This is unbelievably good performance. Both vocalists, whom were both unknown to me, have the right weight in their voices for their roles. Cornelia Kallisch, in particular, has a beautiful voice. Peter Fried sung a fantastic Bluebeard and, so far, is one of the best ones I've heard since Berry. The orchestral accompaniment from Eotvos and the SWR Orchestra will leave you breathless. Although this performance didn't get a lot of press, for whatever reason, I think it gives the classic Kertesz a run for its money.

Is the introductory text spoken during the prelude?


Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2011, 06:23:38 PM »
Is the introductory text spoken during the prelude?


I don't think it does, Scarps, I'll have to listen again. Most recordings don't have the introduction. The Boulez on DG that arrived a few days ago has the spoken introduction though.
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Offline MDL

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2011, 04:12:11 AM »
Haitink's includes the prologue. To be a wishy-washy heretic, I don't really care about the prologue. If it's there, fine. If it's not, I don't miss it.

Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2011, 05:06:07 AM »
Haitink's includes the prologue. To be a wishy-washy heretic, I don't really care about the prologue. If it's there, fine. If it's not, I don't miss it.

I'm not going to get any recording unless I'm sure the prologue is not spoken during the music.

karlhenning

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2011, 05:35:38 AM »
Having experienced the opera in concert performance twice now here in Symphony, both with a mercurial Magyar delivering the spoken Prologue . . . I really should not want at all to be without that intro!

YMMV . . . .

 
It's a great, great piece, and I think its power is underscored by this personal anecdote:  My wife and mom-in-law, after the first BSO performance, felt that they never wanted to endure that creepy story ever again; they were not enthusiastic when I suggested going to the performance earlier this month;  but the second time, they both came away singing the work's praises.

Offline MDL

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2011, 05:55:05 AM »
I've seen Bluebeard staged several times, including once in Budapest, and have seen a few concert performances. In all the stagings, the prologue was included, and I think it does add a certain frisson to a live situation. But for home listening, I'm sitting on the fence.

Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2011, 06:00:43 AM »
They can recite it or not, I don't understand Hungarian so what's the difference?  But I heard excerpts of a Fischer recording where it was spoken during the orchestral introduction.  That is what I object to, I want to hear that music without the talking.

Offline mjwal

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2011, 07:04:28 AM »
Apart from Kertesz I have the old Boulez on CBS LP, in which Tatiana Troyanos is simply ravishing*. The most stunning performance I have heard, from an orchestral point of view, was conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi at the Frankfurt Opera many years ago - I was sitting at the front (late return, lucky me), and I was blown away by the climaxes!
* http://idalopes.blogspot.com/2010/11/bartok-bluebeards-castle-tatiana.html
The Violin's Obstinacy

It needs to return to this one note,
not a tune and not a key
but the sound of self it must depart from,
a journey lengthily to go
in a vein it knows will cripple it.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2011, 07:17:32 AM »
Having experienced the opera in concert performance twice now here in Symphony, both with a mercurial Magyar delivering the spoken Prologue . . . I really should not want at all to be without that intro!

YMMV . . . .

 
It's a great, great piece, and I think its power is underscored by this personal anecdote:  My wife and mom-in-law, after the first BSO performance, felt that they never wanted to endure that creepy story ever again; they were not enthusiastic when I suggested going to the performance earlier this month;  but the second time, they both came away singing the work's praises.

Oh yes, Karl, even something as darkly tuneful as this work will find a way into the hearts of cautious listeners.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2011, 09:33:42 AM by Mirror Image »
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Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2011, 09:32:16 AM »
Apart from Kertesz I have the old Boulez on CBS LP, in which Tatiana Troyanos is simply ravishing*. The most stunning performance I have heard, from an orchestral point of view, was conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi at the Frankfurt Opera many years ago - I was sitting at the front (late return, lucky me), and I was blown away by the climaxes!
* http://idalopes.blogspot.com/2010/11/bartok-bluebeards-castle-tatiana.html

That was my introduction to the work as well (the LP came in a box with a great reproduction of a painting by Max Ernst). I have always loved it. On one level it says something quite true, but uncomfortable, about (artistic) men and their relationship to women - they'd rather idealise/immortalise them, i.e. symbolically kill them, than live with the flesh-and-blood creature... But perhaps this is the truth of an earlier age? I don't know that many contemporary artists who practice sublimation-through-Art.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2011, 09:39:41 AM »


I've not heard the Kertész, which I understand is very good.

This is one of my favorite recordings of this piece (which I love, too). I have not yet heard the Kertész, either--and want to. Both that and the Eötvös are both on my "to get" list. I agree that the later one with Boulez and Chicago is excellent, and very well sung. Jessye Norman doesn't sound like the most vulnerable Judith, but she sings the hell out of the part. I also love the Sawallisch, with Julia Varady.

The ones I have are:

Boulez/Troyanos/Nimsgern/BBC
Boulez/Norman/Polgar/Chicago SO
Elder/Burgess/Howell/BBC Wales
Haitink/von Otter/Tomlinson/Berlin PO
Kubelik/Troyanos/Nimsgern/NYPO (live recording from 1981)
Sawallisch/Varady/Fischer-Dieskau/Bavarian State
Solti/Sass/Kovats/LPO (DVD)

Apart from Kertesz I have the old Boulez on CBS LP, in which Tatiana Troyanos is simply ravishing*.

* http://idalopes.blogspot.com/2010/11/bartok-bluebeards-castle-tatiana.html

That was my introduction to the work as well (the LP came in a box with a great reproduction of a painting by Max Ernst). I have always loved it.

And for me, too! (The CD I have is a Japanese pressing, with the same Ernst painting on it.) I still love that performance. At the opening of the fifth door, Troyanos holds that note longer than anyone else I've ever heard.

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2011, 11:40:03 AM »
This is one of my favorite recordings of this piece (which I love, too). I have not yet heard the Kertész, either--and want to. Both that and the Eötvös are both on my "to get" list. I agree that the later one with Boulez and Chicago is excellent, and very well sung. Jessye Norman doesn't sound like the most vulnerable Judith, but she sings the hell out of the part. I also love the Sawallisch, with Julia Varady.

The ones I have are:

Boulez/Troyanos/Nimsgern/BBC
Boulez/Norman/Polgar/Chicago SO
Elder/Burgess/Howell/BBC Wales
Haitink/von Otter/Tomlinson/Berlin PO
Kubelik/Troyanos/Nimsgern/NYPO (live recording from 1981)
Sawallisch/Varady/Fischer-Dieskau/Bavarian State
Solti/Sass/Kovats/LPO (DVD)


You've got a good collection there, Bruce! I noticed you don't have the Fischer, Marton/Ramey on Sony. I bought this one the other night, have you heard it? The Eotvos is outstanding, by the way, it may end being my favorite.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2011, 12:03:14 PM »
I have not yet heard Fischer's recording--not for any particular reason!--and would like to. And I'm a big fan of Eötvös, both as a conductor and composer, so I'm sure I'll get that one at some point.

PS, meant to mention that the Kubelik/NYPO version is part of this boxed set of broadcasts from 1923-1987, but I stumbled across the single disc with the Bartók at a used CD store!

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Scarpia

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2011, 12:10:01 PM »
Any comment on Dorati's recording on Mercury?

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2011, 12:15:16 PM »
I have not yet heard Fischer's recording--not for any particular reason!--and would like to. And I'm a big fan of Eötvös, both as a conductor and composer, so I'm sure I'll get that one at some point.

The Eotvos lives up to the dark nature of the work. The SWR Orchestra gives this performance their all. Have you heard the Gergiev yet, Bruce? I bought this one as well.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle
« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2011, 12:22:47 PM »
Haven't heard Dorati's, but would like to--and Gergiev's, too.

PS, as for the spoken introduction, I like it, but don't have strong feelings if it's not included. On Haitink's recording it's done by Sandor Elès, who gives it his creepy, Boris Karloff best.  :D

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