Parsifal at the Met

Met-parsifal-2013* Notes * 
François Girard's production of Parsifal opened at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday. The contemporary set features stark imagery. The red lake that dominates the second act (pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) is particularly striking. The angular choreography fits nicely with the staging and the clean costuming. The video is difficult to view in Family Circle, but seems benign and includes images of clouds, aurora borealis, and water. At times, the rippling effects were a bit overblown. The lighting is pleasing. The last scene involves Parsifal putting the Holy Spear in the Grail held by Kundry, a nod to the pagan fertility rituals that may have given rise to the Arthurian romances on which this work is based. For some reason this struck me as clumsy compared to the sleek modernity of Act II.

Conducted by Daniele Gatti, the orchestra played moderately, sounding neither austere nor sprightly. The brass was clear. The chorus was as impressive as ever: perfectly synchronized, strong, and full. Katarina Dalayman was not an alluring Kundry, but she did seem more than half-mad. Evgeny Nikitin was a convincing Klingsor. Peter Mattei was likewise believable as Amfortas, and his voice is immediately appealing. René Pape shone as Gurnemanz. His voice is warm and rich, and he sounds imposing. Jonas Kaufmann did well with the title role, though I find his voice less readily likeable than others, perhaps because of his nasality. Kaufmann was riveting in Act II Scene 2. He has a keen understanding of what he is singing and can convey this to the audience.

* Tattling * 
Every sort of bad behavior was on display for the prima. Watch alarms sounded, mobile phones rang, photographs were taken, some talked, others snored, and there was applause after the first act. During the performance of Act I, someone in Family Circle demanded, at full volume, that he not be touched again.

Und suche dir, Gänser, die Gans!

Bayreuther-parsifal * Notes * 
The final performance of Parsifal at this year's Bayreuther Festspiele was last night. The orchestra sounded fine under Daniele Gatti, and the chorus was absolutely lovely. The singing was good all around, everyone could be heard, even though the production did have the singers far upstage at times. Mihoko Fujimura was utterly terrifying as Kundry, her movements were reptilian and her voice stunning, without a trace of shrillness. Likewise, Thomas Jesatko (Klingsor) acted well and sang adeptly. Diógenes Randes was appropriately grave as Titurel, and Detlef Roth was deeply engaged with his role as Amfortas. Kwangchul Youn's rich, warm tones were welcome in his portrayal of Gurnemanz. In the title role, Christopher Ventris did not fail to impress. He sang with power and very little strain.

Stefan Herheim's production was nauseating, there was just so much going on, lots of movement, many lights and mirrors, and much noise during the music. It seemed that every moment was packed with explanation of not only the plot, but also something about German history in the 20th century. There were many cinematic references from campy musicals to Josef von Sternberg. At the same time, much of the staging felt highly predictable, for instance, the swan that appeared on a shield just above the bed in the middle of Act I was clearly going to be shot by Parsifal, and naturally, it was.

* Tattling * 
The audience was far from silent, there was even yelling during the performance, especially when Nazis appeared on stage. The woman in Row 5 Seat 18 of the Right Parkett must have bathed in perfume, and her poor father had absolutely no idea what was going on with the opera. They were at least less idiotic than the person who took a flash photograph when a mirror was turned toward the audience.

There was some clapping at the end of Act I, which was hushed and hissed at by others. During the last curtain calls there were scattered boos for Gatti, but nothing near the palpable outrage about Die Meistersinger the previous evening.

Bayerische Staatsoper's 2008-2009 Season

October 2 2008- July 24 2009: Macbeth
October 4-11 2008: Das Gehege / Salome
October 5 2008- July 13 2009: Norma
October 19-25 2008: Die Bassariden
October 23- November 2 2008: Eugene Onegin
November 1-6 2008: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
November 8 2008- May 21 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
November 10 2008- January 31 2009: Wozzeck
November 22 2008- March 27 2009: Tamerlano
November 24 2008- July 26 2009: Luisa Miller
November 28 2008- July 7 2009: Werther
December 9-14 2008: Doktor Faustus
December 13-18 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- May 31 2009: La Bohème
December 21-28 2008: Die Zauberflöte
December 23 2008- June 15 2009: La Traviata
December 31 2008- February 24 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 4-10 2009: Carmen
January 19- July 14 2009: Palestrina
February 2-18 2009: Elektra
February 7- July 22 2009: Nabucco
February 20-26 2009: La Calisto
February 23- July 6 2009: Lucrezia Borgia
March 1- July 31 2009: Falstaff
March 14- July 30 2009: Otello
April 8- July 9 2009: Jenůfa
April 9-12 2009: Parsifal
April 26- May 2 2009: Così fan tutte
May 13-15 2009: Madama Butterfly
May 16-23 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 8-30 2009: Aida
July 5-19 2009: Lohengrin
July 13-20 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
June 14- July 30 2009: Idomeneo

Nicola Luisotti is conducting a new production of Macbeth next season at the Bavarian State Opera. Željko Lučić sings the title role, Nadja Michael sings Lady Macbeth, and Dimitri Pittas is Macduff. Anna Netrebko sings in the May performances of La Bohème, with Joseph Calleja as her Rodolfo. John Relyea sings Colline. Relyea is also singing the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, with Lucas Meachem as the Count. Angela Gheorghiu is Violetta Valéry in the June performances of La Traviata, singing opposite Jonas Kaufmann. Simon Keenlyside is Germont. Paolo Gavanelli sings the title role of Nabucco during the Münchner Opernfestspiele 2009. Earlier in the year he also sings Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.

New Productions for 2008-2009 | Official Site

Redeemer Reborn Talk at WSNC

Notes *
Yesterday afternoon Paul Schofield gave a talk on his book The Redeemer Reborn: Parsifal as the Fifth Opera of Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Wagner Society of Northern California
. It was the second time he had talked on this subject at WSNC, so his talk was slightly incoherent for someone who had not heard the previous one. Schofield spent most of the time going into the history of the grail legends, emphasizing they are not "fairy tales," as he put it, slightly scornfully. Strong attention was paid to the similarity of such stories across Indo-European cultures, though the same could be said of many folk tales as well.

Schofield compared the protagonists of Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal convincingly, but the parallels between Siegfried, Tannhäuser, der Holländer, Tristan, and Parsifal are all clear. I am not sure that it was proved Parsifal was part of the Ring anymore than Tristan und Isolde is. Perhaps I must simply read the book, as one can hardly expect someone to condense a 324 page book into a 90 minute talk.

* Tattling *
This WSNC event was the most crowded one I have attended, more chairs had to be brought in, and every chair was taken. Quite entertainingly, during the Q&A the speaker called the libretto for Turandot absurd, and mocked the opera as having "some nice music." Note this opera is based on an Indo-European fairy tale. Is it not interesting that Wagnerians are not satisfied with their composer being so great and glorious, but must also make humiliating remarks about other composers whenever possible?

Der Reine Tor

WilsondonutA new production of Parsifal opened at Los Angeles Opera on Saturday, directed and designed by Robert Wilson of The Black Rider fame. The production itself is awful in every sense, being no less than pretentious, cold, and boring. The choreography involves a lot of lying on the ground, random angular arm movements that relate neither to the text nor the music, slow walking, and having the characters ignore each other. The highlights of Stephanie Engeln's set include an enormous swan wing falling slowly in the background, a lighted giant bagel-half that descends from above, a bunch of small white birds of paradise sculptures that move across the stage, and a large version of one bird of paradise that takes the same path of the wing from Act I. The Frida Parmeggiani costumes have an Egyptian flair, dresses for everyone, in black or white, save Kundry's plum-colored outfit. A.J. Weissbard's lighting does not seem entirely polished, at several points the lights wavered and did not follow the characters.

Plácido Domingo sings Parsifal well enough, the tenor strains a great deal and the apparent lack of affect that characterizes the production did not make him very convincing as a young man. Bass Matti Salminen also sings beautifully as Gurnemanz. Linda Watson's Kundry is not wild in the least, her high notes may be clear and brilliant, but her low notes are weak. Kent Nagano certainly tosses his hair a great deal, at least he conducts with some passion, perhaps the only sign of life to be seen all evening.