Bartók Bluebeard’s Castle
– Orchestration by Christopher van Tuinen
– Revision by Michael Young
English Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Kenneth Woods
– Click here to view the Orchestra List
Soloists: April Fredrick (Judith) / David Stout (Bluebeard)
Video available from 7:30pm, Friday 13th August 2021
Recorded at Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, on 16th & 17th June 2021
About this Concert
The ESO complete their first year of Music from Wyastone virtual concerts with a concert performance of Bartók’s one-act opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, written in 1911.
The performance, which premieres on ESO Digital at 7:30 PM on the 13th of August, marks the first performance of a new arrangement of the opera by the Australian conductor and arranger, Chris van Tuinen, revised by the ESO’s Assistant Conductor, Michael Karcher-Young.
The work is sung in Hungarian and will have English subtitles.
About the Music - An old tale re-imagined
Bartók’s opera is based on a libretto by the Jewish-Hungarian writer and critic, Béla Balázs. Balázs wrote the libretto for their mutual friend, Zoltán Kodály. Bartók was spurred to set the libretto by a competition, which he lost. The opera languished without a performance for several years, causing Bartók to lament to his wife, Márta to whom he dedicated the opera) ends: “Now I know that I will never hear it in this life. You asked me to play it for you—I am afraid I would not be able to get through it. Still I’ll try so that we may mourn it together.”
In Balázs and Bartók’s re-telling of the Bluebeard legend, the title character is, in Bartók’s words, “not a murderer. The images of the Castle are allegorical pictures of the soul.” Bartók also said that the work was a “soul ballade” which expresses “the tragedy of a soul destined to be alone.” The work mourns the way in which “the holy feeling of love dies by becoming every-day. His loves live, but no longer in his life.”
About the Soloists - A Jane Eyre Reunion
The ESO performance of Bluebeard’s Castle reunites soprano April Fredrick as Judit and baritone David Stout as Kékszakállú (Bluebeard). Fredrick and Stout led the cast for the world premiere of John Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre with the ESO in 2016. That performance was named Classical Music Magazine Premiere of the Year and was chosen as the Birmingham Post’s Classical Highlight of 2016. The Somm Records recording of Jane Eyre was later chosen as Opera Recording of the Year by Music Web International.
“Vocally, David and April are just perfect for these two roles, which in many ways fall in between the cracks of our normal voice types. Both roles need a mix of power and lyricism, and ease and projection at both the extreme upper and lower end of their registers,” says conductor Kenneth Woods. “But aside from their vocal and musical qualities, I was fascinated by the connections between Rochester and Jane and Bluebeard. Both Jane Eyre and Bluebeard’s Castle deal with the limitations of intimacy, and it’s not hard to imagine the ending of Jane Eyre segueing into the beginning of Bluebeard.”
David Stout - Kékszakállú (Bluebeard)
A former Head Chorister of Westminster Abbey, David studied Zoology at Durham University, sang with the choir of St. John’s College, Cambridge University and studied Opera at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Rudolf Piernay.
Operatic roles include Leporello Don Giovanni, Figaro Figaro Gets a Divorce (Grand Théâtre de Genève and Welsh National Opera); Figaro Le Nozze di Figaro and Fritz Kothner The Meistersinger (English National Opera and Welsh National Opera); Papageno Die Zauberflöte (Welsh National Opera); Dr Bartolo Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Oslo); Robin Oakapple Ruddigore (Opera North); Marcello La Bohème and Dulcamara L’Elisir d’amore (Sankt Gallen); Marcello La Bohème, Henry Kissinger Nixon in China, Renzo Silvano and Frank Edgar (Scottish Opera); Gratiano The Merchant of Venice, Napoleon War and Peace and Roucher Andrea Chenier (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden); Angelotti Tosca and Sancho Pança Don Quichotte (Bregenz Festival); Rodrigo Don Carlo and Ford Falstaff (Grange Park Opera); Oxenstjerna Cristina di Svezia and Count Douglas Guglielmo Ratcliff (Wexford Festival); Don Pasquale (title role) for Longborough Festival.
Discography includes Haydn’s The Creation with New College, Oxford and also with Musica Saeculorum; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Orchestra of the Swan; Wolf Eichendorff Lieder with Sholto Kynoch; Arthur Sullivan’s The Beauty Stone (Chandos); Zaza and Le Duc d’Albe (Opera Rara); John Joubert’s Jane Eyre (SOMM); and Donner Das Rheingold (Hallé).
On the concert platform he has recently performed Bartok’s Bluebeard with ESO, The Dream of Gerontius with the Polish National Radio Orchestra in Katowice and BBC Live from King’s College, Cambridge; The Messiah in Madrid; his Concertgebouw debut as The Dark Fiddler in Delius’ A Village Romeo and Juliet; Aeneas Dido and Aeneas with the English Concert in Lausanne; Belshazzar’s Feast, A Sea Symphony and Verdi’s Requiem with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Peter The Apostles with The Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall; Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem with the Hallé Orchestra; and Mozart’s Requiem with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He is also a regular performer at the Three Choirs Festival.
Forthcoming roles include Stárek Jenufa (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden); Barnaba La Gioconda (Grange Park Opera); he revisits Figaro (Divorce) and Sancho (Don Quichotte) in Magdeburg and Darmstadt in the New Year. David is also the author of the Eagle and Mountain in ‘The Enlightened’ Series.
April Fredrick - Judit (Judith)
The ESO (English Symphony Orchestra/English String Orchestra) have announced the appointment of American-born soprano April Fredrick as the orchestra’s first Affiliate Artist. Fredrick will be one of several leading artists to work with the ESO in long-term partnership as part of the new scheme.
“Working in collaboration with our fellow artists has been one of the biggest contributing factors to the ESO’s success over the last few years,” said ESO Artistic Director Kenneth Woods. “We’ve always believed that it’s better to build strong working relationships with soloists and composers we respect and enjoy working with over time than to simply populate our concerts with a bunch of one-off appearances by artists who, however gifted, never spend enough time with the orchestra to really create a rapport.”
April Fredrick: “I first heard the ESO’s recordings many years ago as a teenager in Wisconsin, and I was struck then by its passion, flexibility, and precision. As a performer, I have found the orchestra a sheer joy to work, and I am absolutely delighted to have the chance to develop that relationship further. I have also been deeply impressed by the vibrancy and power of its performances, full of an equal depth of thought and feeling, under Kenneth Woods. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of being able to collaborate long-term with such wonderful and dynamic thinkers and musicians to re-imagine old works and models and create new ones that speak afresh to today’s world”.
Woods also explained that the new scheme is about more than simply inviting the same artists to appear over and over again on concerts. “The Affiliate Artist scheme is about strategic and creative partnership. It’s about finding artists we can work with to commission new works, develop new projects, reach new audiences and create new recordings.”
One of Fredrick’s most ambitious projects with the ESO is “The Hour of Love and Death”- an immersive multi-media staging of Shostakovich’s 14th Symphony in which Fredrick is appearing as soloist alongside current ESO Artist-in-Association Matthew Sharp and serving as Executive Producer. “A large part of my inspiration to create The Hour of Love and Death came from knowing Matthew and April as singers,” said Woods. “In fact, the very first project April and I did was a performance of Shostakovich 14. I could immediately see that she was one of those rare sopranos who have the voice for this formidable work, but that she also brings communicative gifts, movements skills and theatrical presence to the piece that opened up the possibility of taking this work to a whole different level. The same is true of Matthew Sharp, who also brings vast experience as a theatrical and operatic director to the project. In her capacity as Executive Producer, April has further expanded the project’s creative scope and public engagement. This is exactly the sort of strategic cooperation that I hope the new Affiliate Artist scheme will help us develop.”
Fredrick made her debut with the ESO in the arias from Beethoven’s Incidental Music to Goethe’s Egmont in 2015 and created a nationwide sensation among critics and music lovers when she sang the title role in the world premiere performance and Somm recording of John Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre in 2016. More recently, she gave the London premiere of Philip Sawyers’ Songs of Loss and Regret, a performance of which Robert Matthew-Walker wrote in Classical Source that “a considerable compliment was paid to the composer by the exceptional April Fredrick who sang superbly throughout without a score. For an artist of this quality to memorise the music is itself an indication of her view of the work’s stature.” Her upcoming ESO projects also include Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with Kenneth Woods in February, 2018.
Hailed as ‘astonishing and luminous’ (Bachtrack), soprano April Fredrick grew up in rural Wisconsin and trained first as a violinist before studying voice at the University of Northwestern St Paul in Minnesota. She went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, where she gained an MMus in Vocal Performance and a PhD on the late songs of Ivor Gurney, singing with the Historical Performance department under Laurence Cummings, premiering works by Academy composers, and frequently appearing as part of the Lyric Song Salon.
Her first two discs on the SOMM label, of Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and Copland 8 Songs of Emily Dickinson with the Orchestra of the Swan and Earth’s Call, John Ireland songs with pianist Mark Bebbington, have been described as full of ‘humane and vulnerable’, with ‘creamy timbre and velvet strength’, (MusicWeb), where ‘not the slightest distance can be felt between her and the texts’ (Gramophone).
Other recent performances include Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with the Cheltenham Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Symphony 4 with the Warsaw Philharmonic, the world premiere of Philip Saywer’s Songs of Loss and Regret with the English Symphony Orchestra (forthcoming on Nimbus Records) in Hereford Cathedral, and Strauss’s Vier Letzte Lieder with the Blackburn Symphony Orchestra.
Upcoming work includes, Brahms Requiem and Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder with the Nottingham Harmonic Society and the world premiere of a new song-cycle by David Matthews.