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David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2013

The classic story of Bluebeard and his wives, though in Paul Dukas’s opera the ending is different, particularly in this modern new production from Claus Guth. Unlike Bartók’s more frequently performed version, where only Bluebeard and his final wife, Judith, take part, Maeterlinck’s libretto for Dukas is about his five wives, Bluebeard appearing only twice, and very briefly. In this updated view the action takes place in a suburban 1970s house where the aging bigamist has imprisoned his brides in rooms in the cellar. There, cut off from the outside world, they have become mentally demented. When Ariane arrives, as his latest conquest, she tries to persuade them there is life outside awaiting to welcome them. She is successful, and they decide to escape until the neighbours of Bluebeard, thinking something dreadful is happening in his house, have set upon him, his wives seeing his wounds deciding to stay to look after him, only Ariane leaving the house…recent true stories of people being abducted and hidden away for years gives a modern slant that has much to commend it. It is performed by a well-chosen cast, Dukas having created a mammoth role for Ariane who is on stage for the whole two-hour score. It is superbly sung by Jeanne-Michele Charbonnet who is unstinting in the vocal power the composer demands. In Dukas’s story Ariane is accompanied by her old nurse, but here that character becomes a young woman who shares in Ariane’s discovery. She too has a major vocal part here taken by the outstanding mezzo Patricia Bardon. The veteran bass-baritone, Jose van Dam, sings the cameo role of Bluebeard. The orchestra, conducted by Stéphane Denève, who has recorded Roussel’s orchestral works for the Naxos catalogue, produces a perfectly balanced backdrop for the singers…this ‘live’ 2011 recording from Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu is very good both in aural and visual quality. The disc also comes in standard DVD on OA1098D. © 2013 David’s Review Corner






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4:09:57 AM, 18 April 2014
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