That pretty much encapsulates my reaction to the staggering accomplishment of Des Moines Metro Opera’s festival production of Bartok’s masterpiece, Bluebeard’s Castle. This taut, barely sixty-minute performance was brimming with outstanding achievements, not least of which was the cast of only two singers. But what singers they were! . . .
DMMO favorite, Sara Gartland matches him note for note as the doomed wife, Judith. This is an Everest of a role, and Ms. Gartland meets its every challenge with her radiantly produced soprano firing on all cylinders. She can ravish us with silvery floated high notes, chill us with robust chest tones, and hit us between the eyes with searing, poised, arching declamatory phrases. Her registers are beautifully knit, and she glides seamlessly throughout the demands of the part.
Vocally and dramatically, she totally embodies this complex, conflicted character, fearful of what secrets she may discover, but believably grounded in intense love for her husband. When she finally pleads her case near opera’s end, her plaintive singing goes into the ears and heads straight for the heart. This complex performance was deftly delivered, and to boot, her lovely presence is truthfully acknowledged when Bluebeard ultimately says she is the most beautiful of all his wives."