Bluebeard’s Castle: Sumegi’s vocal mastery a triumph

March 2, 2021 by Victor Grynberg

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Bela Bartok, the most famous of the 20th Century Hungarian composers only wrote one opera, a one-hour one-act piece with only two singers, Bluebeard and his new wife Judit…writes Victor Grynberg.

Carmen Topciu as Judith and Daniel Sumegi as Bluebeard in Opera Australia’s 2021 production of Bluebeard’s Castle at the Sydney Opera House.
Photo Credit: Prudence Upton

For many traditional opera lovers this opera with a pure Bartok-type score sung in Hungarian, may not seem on the surface the most interesting piece.

Yet the Premiere at the Opera House last night was met with a rapturous response by a thrilled audience.

Why?

Very simply the chance to hear Australia’s own great bass-baritone, Daniel Sumegi in a role that truly displays his vocal mastery. It is worth the admission price on its own.

There is such pleasure in listening to a voice such as his, that’s somewhat under-represented in the main works in this field.

I look forward to hearing this magnificent voice again soon.

Sumegi plays the powerful Bluebeard who welcomes his new bride Judit to his castle where there are seven mysterious doors that Judit wants to be opened. Often described as a psychological thriller and certainly not a good example of male chivalry, there is mystery as each door is progressively opened. A very simple yet imaginative set designed by OA regular Andy Morton works very effectively, with the use of dark-clad stagehands moving the props around. This is aided superbly by some of the most interesting use of lighting I have seen in many years. Bravo John Rayment.

As the new bride, alternately terrified and dominated by Bluebeard, and yet still in love with him Romanian-born mezzo Carmen Topciu holds her own in a strong performance.

Much acclaimed conductor Andrea Molino led an excellent Opera Australia Orchestra to play the very demanding score.

This is an opera for those with imagination and inspiration and the rewards are there.

4 ½ stars

BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE

Joan Sutherland Theatre

Sydney Opera House

March 1 2021

Season ends March 10

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