The big surprise about Gergiev's 'Bluebeard' is that it is so lyrical. Orchestral contours are seamlessly interwoven, passing from one episode to another with an unerring sense of unity. With the current field very much dominated by Tomlinson's Bluebeard, Willard White's assumption of the role is very different. Rather than being menacing he portrays a virile suitor who genuinely loves Judith (and all his wives) and is resigned and disappointed when she insists on opening the 7th and final door. This Bluebeard evidently exults in having 4 captive wives, and his lonely darkness at the end does not seem unduly desolating. The Freudian mystery of the bloodstains, as in all accounts of this opera, remains unsolved. Elena Zhidkova is a true Russian mezzo with a contralto-ish timbre. She keeps Judith's hysteria at bay whilst indicating her stubborn nature. She adds some beautiful soft singing. White's high baritone register conveys both strength and tenderness. If you are looking for the high drama of the piece this may not be your first choice, but it provides an intimate, alternative reading, very much in keeping with the psychological undertow of the story. A fine achievement - and in this case the right decision to excise the applause at the end.