Opera In English - Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle
Both singers are superb here. If Tomlinson is sounding a bit old, he's certainly not sounding weak, and the pitch-darkness of his tone is just right for this enigma of a man. "Forbidding" is the word that comes to mind. (He also speaks the Prologue, and sounds properly dour.) Burgess does almost everything right (she drops the high-C at the fifth door too quickly for it to have the resounding effect it ought to) and she can sound genuinely frightened without overstating or exaggerating. Her performance is all-of-a-piece; she's thoroughly believable.
The score is a study in brightness and grief, chiaroscurically speaking, and the clarity of the recording, the elegance and excellence of the playing of Opera North's Orchestra, and the leadership of Richard Farnes lets us experience most of the contrasts. It's not as vivid as renditions by Solti or Kertesz, but it's fine nonetheless. After the Kertesz (with Ludwig and Berry), this set is a fine choice if the English language doesn't get in your way--or if it's exactly what you need.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: CHAN 3133
Composer: Béla Bartók
Conductor: Richard Farnes
Orchestra/Ensemble: Opera North Orchestra
Performer: John Tomlinson, Sally Burgess