"THE ESSENTIAL MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ
DUKAS: Ariane et Barbe-Bleue
July 4, 1958 was a very special night in Buenos Aires. Sir Thomas Beecham had returned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Teatro Colón by conducting performances of Fidelio, Samson and Delilah, Carmen, The Magic Flute, and Otello. The latter is heard on this Golden Memories issue, and it is quite a performance. Beecham had insisted on Ramon Vinay for the title role, and the famed tenor does not disappoint. Nor does Giuseppe Taddei as Iago, or Antonietta Stella as the doomed wife. Vinay already had recorded this opera in 1947 with Toscanini, in 1951, and sang performances with Furtwängler in 1951, in 1952 with Santini, and in 1955 with Kubelik. Beecham elicits magnificent playing from the orchestra—the tension and drama here rival Toscanini's interpretation. Recorded sound is only fair; the microphones are close to the orchestra, distant from the singers, but the fine performance is still conveyed. Rather skimpy production values, but this is an Otello many will wish to own.
Collectors also will wish to have this performance of Carmen from RAI Television June 13, 1956. Franco Corelli and Belén Amparan are dramatically and vocally exciting. This performance was recorded first and then filmed—the video covered on this site (see REVIEW).This is a compelling performance of Bizet's masterpiece, issued at full price. For $10 more you can get the DVD, which offers, in spite of dated video, an outstanding presentation of Carmen.
"The Essential Montserrat Caballé" refers to the subject as showcased on RCA/Sony and indeed she did make many superb recordings with those labels, so we have nothing from the many equally fine recordings she made for other labels, particularly Decca and EMI. But what is here is important, and for the few people in the world who aren't familiar with this magnificent Spanish soprano, this is an ideal introduction to her artistry, ranging from Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini through Verdi, Strauss and Wagner. Excellent sound throughout, no texts, but both discs are well-filled and they are mid-priced.
Leon Botstein's recent recording of Dukas' take on the story of Bluebeard was recorded in Watford Colisseum in England January 2007.The libretto is by Maurice Maeterlinck. We find Bluebeard's latest wife, Ariane (not Judith as in Bartók's version), and her nurse coming to Bluebeard's castle to try to understand his past. In the process, they open various doors to rooms filled with precious stones (vividly presented in Dukas' music), and find the previous wives who refuse to leave their captor. In an extended final scene, Ariane and the Nurse leave Bluebeard alone in the castle with the psychotic women who were unfortunate enough to marry him and still prefer not to leave. The huge and incredibly demanding roles for Ariane and the Nurse are superbly sung by Lori Phillips and Patricia Barconn; Peter Rose is Bluebeard, but he, surprisingly, has only a few lines. The remainder of the cast is ideal, but the real star is Botstein who uncovers all of the rich beauty of the score. As usual, Telarc's sound is excellent, and the complete libretto is provided in French and English. We are indebted to Telarc for bringing attention to this unjustly neglected masterpiece.
R.E.B. (February 2008)