A glistening 'Bluebeard's Castle' at Seattle Symphony
A review of Seattle Symphony Orchestra's semi-staged performance of Bartók's "Bluebeard's Castle," which repeats May 17, 2012. That performance will also include the world premiere of Diamond's "Six Arias" from "The Noblest Game."
Special to The Seattle Times
Seattle Symphony OrchestraBartók's "Bluebeard's Castle," Gerard Schwarz conducting, world premiere of Diamond's "Six Concert Arias" from "The Noblest Game" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Benaroya Hall (S. Mark Taper Forum), 200 University St., Seattle; $17-$74 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).
CONCERT REVIEW |
It's one of the most visually stunning programs the Seattle Symphony has ever presented. And there's one more chance (this Thursday) to see and hear this exciting semi-staged production of Bartók's "Bluebeard's Castle," with a glass wonderland of sets by Northwest glass legend Dale Chihuly.
Premiered five years ago, this eye-candy "Bluebeard" has six enormous black boxes that slowly rotate, one by one, to reveal spectacular glass tableaux representing what's behind each door that Bluebeard's wife, Judith, opens in his castle. Gasps and murmurs arise from the audience as each set is revealed in turn: rich blues and violets representing Bluebeard's realm, for instance, or vivid gold stalks depicting his treasury.
The production also presents difficulties for the performers and for conductor Gerard Schwarz: how to place the huge black boxes on the stage without blocking off the orchestra from the audience, or impeding the sightlines between the conductor and the two singers? And how to deal with the seventh and final box, which Judith opens to reveal Bluebeard's three previous wives?
This time the location of the seventh box (which doesn't contain a glass set) was changed from the stage front to a position behind the orchestra. Unfortunately, many in the audience weren't able to see Judith open that door and the three wives (SSO staffers Amy Bokanev, Kelly Boston and Elizabeth Wormsbecker) emerge. The drama was more intact in the 2007 version, when all seven boxes were in the same locale.
The musical values were first-rate. Resonant bass-baritone Charles Robert Austin made a triumphant return as Bluebeard, and Nancy Maultsby's huge, rich mezzo-soprano made a remarkable impact as Judith. (It would have been nice if she had memorized the score; the page-turning on the music stand kept her from total immersion in the drama.)
The orchestra gave a powerful performance under Schwarz's capable baton; he cued the soloists with care and unleashed the tremendous drama in this great score. Helen M. Szablya gave the opening narration an authoritative reading.
The concert's first half was disappointing: the premiere of Michael Hersch's dismal "along the ravines" for piano (soloist Shai Wosner) and orchestra. The opening passages sounded like shrieks of dismay from the orchestra, punctuated by clattery attacks from the keyboard. So much effort; so little music.
Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.