Seattle Symphony Collaborates With Dale Chihuly

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Seattle Symphony Music Director Gerard Schwarz today announced an unprecedented collaboration for the upcoming presentation of Bartók's spectacular opera, Bluebeard's Castle, at Benaroya Hall.

Renowned artist Dale Chihuly will design the set, while former Seattle Repertory Theatre Artistic Director Sharon Ott will serve as staging consultant and Hungarian-born software engineer Charles Simonyi will give the narration.

"We all know Bluebeard's Castle to be a great masterpiece," Maestro Schwarz said. "I feel so strongly about the music that I feel it can stand on its own without staging or sets. Yet," he added, "the work can be incredibly enhanced by the great artist Dale Chihuly's artwork and Sharon Ott's theatrical direction. Having Charles Simonyi read the opera's Prologue in its original Hungarian as well as in English will set the stage for the drama to follow."

The performances on May 31 at 7:30 p.m. and June 2 at 8 p.m. will be a major highlight of the 2006-2007 season and will take place during Seattle Symphony's Bridging the 48th Parallel: Music of Central Europe festival. Mezzo-soprano Sally Burgess will perform the role of Judith and bass-baritone Charles Robert Austin will perform Bluebeard.

Bluebeard's Castle, Bartók's only opera, was created in 1911 and premiered in 1918. The setting of the story is the eponymous castle, symbolizing Bluebeard's dark and lonely soul. Bluebeard shows Judith, his fourth wife, around the interior, which is bare except for seven mysterious doors.

These doors fill Judith with an obsessive curiosity, until at last she demands the keys to each of the doors. Bluebeard reluctantly surrenders and watches as she opens the doors one by one, revealing the hidden pieces of Bluebeard's past that haunt his soul. With each door, Judith sees first the brilliance of the interior, only to notice later the blood that stains each chamber. Her morbid fascination moves her to open all of the doors until finally, when she opens the last door, she reveals Bluebeard's previous wives, imprisoned and devoid of humanity.

Schwarz noted that Chihuly "has come up with a spectacular design concept that far exceeds my expectations." The design, he explained, represents those revealing doors.

Bridging the 48th Parallel is Seattle Symphony's celebration of the music of composers from Central Europe. Like Seattle, the great musical cities of that area, notably Prague and Budapest, rest on or about the 48th parallel. Conducted by Gerard Schwarz, the repertoire will span seven decades of the 20th century. The festival includes works by numerous composers such as Martinu, Janácek, Husa, Maratka, Lutoslawski, Enescu, and Bacewicz.

A full complement of community events related to Bridging the 48th Parallel: Music of Central Europe will be announced mid-March.

Seattle Symphony, now presenting its 104th season, has been under the artistic leadership of Music Director Gerard Schwarz since 1985. The Symphony is recognized for its adventurous programming and tradition of performing music by contemporary composers. Seattle Symphony has made more than 100 recordings and garnered 11 Grammy nominations. From September through July, the Symphony is heard live by more than 315,000 people annually.

Gerard Schwarz celebrates his 22nd year as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony. Under his artistic leadership, the Seattle Symphony has evolved into one of the world's finest orchestras. His vast repertoire has earned praise both in concerts worldwide and on recordings for his compelling sensitivity and extraordinary depth.

Dale Chihuly is one of the world's best-known contemporary glass artists. His work is included in over 200 museum collections worldwide and he has been the recipient of many awards, including ten honorary doctorates, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant, a Fulbright Fellowship and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Chihuly co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington, and has led the development of glass as a fine art. This collaboration with Seattle Symphony is his first with a major orchestra.

Sharon Ott has directed at theaters throughout the country and enjoys a parallel career in the world of opera, having directed La Bohème and the world premiere of The Conquistador at San Diego Opera, Don Giovanni at Opera Colorado, and Vanessa and Salomé at Seattle Opera. She directed over 15 projects during her eight-year tenure as Seattle Repertory Theatre's artistic director, including Anna in the Tropics, the premiere of Nilo Cruz's Beauty of the Father, Misalliance, Living Out, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It and the premiere of Amy Freed's The Beard of Avon. Prior to Seattle Rep, she was artistic director for 13 years of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, during which it received the 1997 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Ott currently is a professor at the Savannah College of Arts and Design.

Charles Simonyi was born in Budapest, Hungary, and received his B.S. in engineering mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972 and a doctorate in computer science from Stanford in 1977. He is perhaps best known for overseeing the development of Microsoft Word, Excel and other best-selling software applications. In 2003, Simonyi founded the Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, which has provided substantial support for Seattle Symphony and other arts, science and educational institutions. At present, he is preparing to blast off into space aboard a Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft for a visit to the International Space Station in 2007. --

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