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In the theatre, Bartók’s one-act opera is a dramatic portrait of the irreconcilability of the sexes. In the concert hall, where this recording was made in 2011 by the Philharmonia Orchestra, its appeal to the imagination seems no less powerful.

Salonen conducts a taut, luxuriant reading that captures the score’s majesty and mystery. John Tomlinson’s Bluebeard makes up in histrionic heft what he has lost in vocal poise, but is overshadowed by Michelle DeYoung’s wonderfully alive Judith. The inclusion of the enigmatic introduction, spoken in English by Juliet Stevenson, is an unexpected bonus.

Bartók

Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Esa-Pekka Salonen

(Signum Classics)

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