- Duke Bluebeard's Castle (A kékszakkallú Herceg Vára), opera in one act, Sz. 48, BB 62 (Op. 11)
This Naxos disc may or may not contain the greatest recording of Bartók's "Bluebeard's Castle" ever made, but while it's playing, you'll wholeheartedly believe that it is. Naturally, in a one-act opera featuring only two singers, the quality of the soloists is critical, and in bass Gustáv Belácek and soprano Andrea Meláth, this recording has two wonderfully lyrical singers who really grasp the psychological depths of Bluebeard and his wife Judith. But more important for the overall success of the performance is the quality of the conductor and orchestra, and in Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth, this recording has a conductor and orchestra at the very peak of their form. Alsop's leadership is intensely dramatic, but never bombastic, and the Bournemouth plays as if the fate of humanity hangs on the passion of the performance. Recorded in all-enveloping sound at The Concert Hall in Poole in May 2007, the digital sound here rivals the best of the so-called major labels. Though many listeners will retain their attachment to the Kertész, Solti, or even the Boulez recordings, those who love Bartók's operatic masterpiece will welcome this recording with open arms.