VOICES Notes and news on Classical releases
16 JUL 07 ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS
Within the classical music pantheon, Paul Dukas is hardly a familiar figure. Sure, one might argue that there's always "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," but with the exception of that one piece, Dukas is for most listeners just a footnote in the long march of musical history. Enter conductor, musicologist and president of Bard College, Leon Botstein, who has built a singular performance career championing composers and works that have fallen through the cracks. Botstein's curatorial advocacy is centered on Dukas' strange and often beautiful 1907 opera Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, whose story springs from the same inspiration as Bartok's nearly contemporaneous Bluebeard's Castle.
Ariane is sometimes talked about as an operatic vehicle advocating women's empowerment. For all that talk of this "feminist" opera, however, Ariane's courageous efforts to free five of Bluebeard's previous wives fail as none actually follow her out of captivity to freedom. Is Ariane, then, a theatrical treatment of Stockholm Syndrome? With its moodily shifting harmonies, a showpiece role for an enterprising soprano to play the titular heroine, and rich textures, there are plenty of reasons why Ariane should return to the repertoire, and Botstein and his team (most notably soprano Lori Philips) make a persuasive case. It's amazing what tenacious advocacy by just the right person can do.