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Originally published June 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 1, 2007 at 9:16 PM

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Concert review

Gorgeous glass and music at Seattle Symphony performance

Stunning. Absolutely stunning. It isn't often that I review a Seattle Symphony concert with the words, "See it if you can. " But the orchestra's...

Seattle Times music critic

Review


Thursday night, Benaroya Hall

Repeat performance

Seattle Symphony Orchestra: Central Europe Festival ("Bridging the 48th Parallel"), Bartók's "Bluebeard's Castle," Gerard Schwarz conducting, 8 p.m. today, Benaroya Hall (206- 215-4747 or www.seattle symphony.org).

Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

It isn't often that I review a Seattle Symphony concert with the words, "See it if you can." But the orchestra's current semistaged production of the one-act Bartók opera, "Bluebeard's Castle," offers more than great music: six huge, gorgeous glass works by glassmeister Dale Chihuly lie behind the doors Bluebeard's wife opens during the course of the show.

The glass pieces, installed in gigantic black boxes, are revealed one by one, as Bluebeard's wife, Judith (mezzo-soprano Sally Burgess), "opens" the doors by rotating the boxes toward the audience. Gasps go up as one brilliant glass tableau after another is unveiled. Illuminated red spears depict Bluebeard's armory. Exotic lilylike blooms of greens and golds represent garden. Gold glass stalks and multicolored glass jewels are the jewel treasury; gigantic milky pendants above clustered glass balls are the lake of tears.

Review


Thursday night, Benaroya Hall

Chihuly uses every color in the rainbow in six displays that makes this "Bluebeard" almost unbearably exciting: You can't wait to see what's behind the next door.

All this is brilliantly lighted in exact synchronization with what's going on in the libretto, which is translated via projected titles from the original Hungarian. The opening Hungarian narration, by Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi (who has a fine speaking voice), also was translated. The narration was a nice touch that added authenticity to the performance.

The black Chihuly boxes were lined up across the stage, separating the orchestra from the audience, but the acoustics remained surprisingly good. Conductor Gerard Schwarz and the orchestra gave a powerful performance of the score in all its eerie menace, rising to splendid climaxes, as the one accompanying the opening of the fifth door. (Assistant conductor Carolyn Kuan cued the singers, who could not see Schwarz because of the glass sets, from a box just beneath the stage.)

Repeat performance


Seattle Symphony Orchestra: Central Europe Festival ("Bridging the 48th Parallel"), Bartók's "Bluebeard's Castle," Gerard Schwarz conducting, 8 p.m. Saturday, Benaroya Hall (206- 215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).

Burgess and her Bluebeard, Charles Robert Austin, were both terrific — a handsome couple, both first-rate singing actors — and the work of Sharon Ott (billed as "staging consultant") paid off in many important subtleties of movement and gesture. Marlys Palumbo, Jeanne McNae and Jill Heerensperger (in nonsinging roles) represented Bluebeard's three former wives, revealed by the opening of the final, seventh door (the only door without the Chihuly glass).

This production cries out to be filmed, not only because of the avid international audience for Chihuly but also because of the quality of singing and playing. Filming costs money, but this show is worth it.

The evening's musical hors d'oeuvre was Martinu's Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, an energetic and angular work that got a focused, high-impact performance. Kimberly Russ played the prominent piano part with panache; the evening's guest concertmaster was Laura Hamilton, principal associate concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Tickets are likely to be in high demand for Saturday's repeat performance (the Thursday show was almost full). Performance history is being made right here in Seattle.

See it if you can.

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

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