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DVD Review

Béla Bartók

Bluebeard's Castle

Kolos Kováts, bass
Sylvia Sass, soprano
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Georg Solti
Decca DVD 0743254 56m
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Béla Bartók's only opera, although hailed as an absolute masterpiece, has never really attained a strong foothold on the world's stage. The reason mainly lies with the dark psychological content of the story, which at times is disturbingly macabre and convulsive.

Opera lovers, very often want to identify with what is emotionally stirring and what strikes a chord within their inner selves, so the mysterious goings on within Bluebeard's walls have never been an attractive proposition. Having said that, Bartók's work remains frightfully compelling and this gorgeous studio production will certainly give the opera a shot in the arm.

Kováts and Sass, ably directed by Miklós Szinetar, give a colossal performance, and the characters of Bluebeard and Judith are brought out with such searing intensity that they are made to look and sound as real flesh and blood individuals. Sir Georg's uncanny knowledge of the score is no less masterful and under his baton, the London Philharmonic bring across all the heightened tension and anguish of the tale with terrifying reality.

Due to the claustrophobic nature of this unique creation, the opera transfers very well to the small screen, so this DVD is welcome in more ways than one. If not anything, this is a fine opportunity to re-assess Bartók's dramatic acumen in an intimate environment. Sound and visuals are of the highest Decca standards. Highly recommended.

Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech