Der Reine Tor
November 28, 2005
A 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.