The Dale Chihuly glass set for "Bluebeard's Castle" is "absolutely stunning," says Gerard Schwarz, who conducts the Seattle Symphony at...

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The Dale Chihuly glass set for “Bluebeard’s Castle” is “absolutely stunning,” says Gerard Schwarz, who conducts the Seattle Symphony at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Bartók opera as part of the new “Central Europe Music Festival: Bridging the 48th Parallel.”

It was Schwarz’s idea to contact Chihuly about doing the set for the semi-

staged concert version of “Bluebeard,” remembering Chihuly’s earlier sets for a spectacular Seattle Opera “Pelléas and Mélisande” production, which Schwarz had conducted.

“Thinking about ‘Bluebeard,’ I thought this would be perfect for Dale,” says Schwarz. “I approached him on the subject, and gave him a CD and a book; he loved the idea. It sounded like an ideal way to enlarge the reach of the Seattle Symphony.”

Classical-music preview

Central Europe Music Festival: Bridging the 48th Parallel, Thursday through June 9, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle (206-215-4747, 866-833-4747 or

In the one-act opera, Duke Bluebeard’s bride, Judith (sung by mezzo-soprano Sally Burgess), asks Bluebeard (bass-baritone Charles Robert Austin) what lies beyond the seven locked doors in his castle. Despite his pleas that she must only love him and not seek answers, Judith opens one door after another — finally unlocking the seventh door. Out come Bluebeard’s three previous wives, who emerge in a spectral state (are they alive, or dead?). Finally, Judith follows the three wives back through the seventh door.

In the Seattle Symphony production, staged by noted director Sharon Ott, the doors will be represented by seven black towers, each about 20 feet high and 7 feet wide.

“As each door opens,” Schwarz explains, “the tower turns, and reveals the incredible glass art Dale has created and lit. When you see those works of glass, you realize what an amazing artistic statement this is.” Schwarz would like to see the production tour to major cultural centers in other countries, though he acknowledges that shipping and insurance might be prohibitively expensive.

The Symphony’s “Bluebeard,” which repeats at 8 p.m. June 2, will feature space traveler and software wizard Charles Simonyi (one of the festival’s funders) as the narrator, reading the prologue in his native Hungarian.

The Central Europe Festival also will offer two rare performances of Janácek’s “Glagolitic Mass” — with soloists Christine Goerke (soprano), Sarah Heltzel (mezzo-soprano), Gary Lakes (tenor) and Patrick Carfizzi (bass) joining the orchestra and the Seattle Symphony Chorale — on June 7 and 9. A more intimate June 8 program in the smaller Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall will feature principal cellist Joshua Roman in Kry{scaron}tof Maratka’s “Three Concert Movements,” among other repertoire. (Before the concert, Roman will play two unaccompanied Eastern European cello sonatas from his sold-out March 16 recital.) A June 3 presentation of the Seattle Chamber Players and guest artists will explore the question, “After Bartók: What’s Next?”

Schwarz says he is “excited to interact with the community, the folk groups, poets, students and others” in free-to-the-public programming June 2 and 3 that will extend from Hungarian and Balkan dance to Czech music (played by the St. Helens Quartet) and Bulgarian piano music (performed by Anna Levy). For a complete schedule of all these activities, visit

Two more innovations are worth a special note: the Symphony’s first collaboration with the Seattle International Film Festival, in a June 3 screening of Ferenc Erkel’s filmed opera, “Bánk Bán,” at Pacific Place Cinema ($7 at the SIFF box office, 206-324-9996). And a new marketing campaign will send video podcast e-mails about the Bartók and Janácek programs to patrons, to the orchestra’s e-mail fan club and, afterward, to the Symphony’s Web site at (The Philadelphia Orchestra, which plays Benaroya Hall on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., also did a recent podcast test project in April.)

The two main Symphony programs in the festival (the Bartók and Janácek concerts) take place in Benaroya Hall’s Taper mainstage. A special three-concert pass will allow audiences to attend both those full-orchestra programs in the big hall, plus the “Composers Who Could Not Be Censored” program June 8, for $50. For information about passes and single tickets, call the Symphony’s ticket office at 206-215-4747 or toll-free at 866-833-4747.

Melinda Bargreen: