Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Berliner Philharmoniker
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links

Selected Review


Opera

Parsifal: The Royal Opera, Covent Garden

Whatís up Doc? Anything new in the Parsifal front? Yeah, some self mutilation, some child mutilation, some suggested sex, some nice touches which were sadly not followed up. Nothing new and much old to cement the already idiotic idea of redemption through compassion.

This is not the place to define what is Parsifal, Pierre Boulez tried already and look at the results so far, so why should anybody insist on a path so well trodden? Because there is one bright spot at The Royal Opera which actually cares and knows much about it, no it is not Tony Pappano, although he fulfils all those conditions very well indeed. I refer to the people in charge of the program notes. I wonder how many people actually read it all, especially when it can give the impression of highfalutin. But if one does, there are worse things believe me, one may find an article by Felicity Rosslyn who is a family Therapist. Compassion is a funny word, it had many meanings through the ages, Buddhists practice it to a very high standard, but it is cold and distant. Wagnerís compassion is highly romanticised and has its roots in the Middle Ages. It is the old fashioned way, you learn through your own mistakes and become wise... maybe. There is a fine book by Prof. Taylor called The Medieval Mind, and there one finds the classical progression, error, tragedy, suffering, learning. But what comes out of Ms Rosslynís excellent article is the (re)discovery that to talk can also disturb the people one cares for, that actually it is our mere presence which gives the assurance and comfort we are trying to give. As a carer of some experience I can agree with her opinion.

So what is Parsifal all about in the light of Ms Rosslynís assertion? Has not Parsifal fulfilled these conditions by observing attentively the suffering of the wounded King? Is he supposed to come to him and say, I am sorry old chap, I do really suffer for you and suddenly the King is cured?

Parsifal has already shown compassion, but the knights are not ready to acknowledge it because they are fools, blinded and narrow minded, even Gurnemanz. Above all, they are the creation of a mind which at times was not all there, that is literary speaking, musically he was a genius. People tend to get religious when they become old, the old revolutionary spirits are long gone and what is left is a feeling of atoning and seeking forgiveness for past sins. One can feel this perfectly well, but to make a quasi religious service of an opera and ask people to believe in it is something else. So cheers for Ms Rosslyn for a splendid article which should have been given as obligatory reading to any aspiring Parsifal producer.

Mr Stephen Langridge has done enough to know better than this. He should have known that there would be a reaction and a distraction to the mutilation of the Grail child. One can tolerate self mutilated Knights going into battle, but where are they going? To do what? Is that the way Lohengrin goes to rescue Elsa? With a self wounded hand? Who is Parsifalís wife then? Because in this version, Parsifal leaves at the end like the Lone Ranger, and Amfortas, cured of his sins, takes Kundry, his seducer in the first place, by the hand in marriage no doubt? So is it that simple? One goes away, learns, comes back tired and dusty, has his feet cleaned by a beautiful woman, goes to watch the Knights arguing with their King, restores him to health by the mere presence of a long stick and ... thatís all folks? Wow. I thought Parsifal was more than that. Are we not in the post Herheim era? Have we not seen what it can be and mean? Has anybody seen what Ruth Berghaus did with it in Hamburg? Do we bring anything new by simply provoking? Answers and complaints to the Editor please. This is yet another sad example of design and single idea taking over and convincing a house which has little sense of what it is doing and for whom and why. But musically these questions answer themselves very well.

Tony Pappano took a slow view of the score, with so much tension, with so much passion, and so many rehearsals, that it sounded natural and effortless. This was a high quality reading right through, there was not a flacid moment where the tension decayed, Pappano kept his horses on a short leash but galloping with their heads high. His Wagner reading was simply superb.

The Royal Opera Chorus is now legendary, Renato Balsadonna did as much with his chorus as Pappano with his orchestra and at this level they are hard to surpass. One can get a different quality of sound from another orchestra, but this must be also up there, at the top of the pile.

Rene Pape is a long standing server of the role of Gurnemanz. He is a committed artist and he does it with conviction. His diction was splendid, his voice a miracle of beauty but I wish he would have said no to the silly indication to walk using short steps in the third act. John Cleese would have revelled in it but not Pape. Sorry Mr Langridge but please do not make characters look silly. It does not help. People like Angela Denokeís acting, her style, even her voice. I am not a fan of little expression, I like meat and bones, not just bones. She is a fine singer at times and she can deliver, but prefers a limpid, depressing state. Her Kundry was ok, and it was funny for those who saw it, to make her imitate Munchís The Scream in the second act when remembering how she had laughed at the sight of God. Harry Kupfer did it much better, for those who are interested he asked her to bite her fist. Today it is hard to find a better Parsifal than Simon OíNeill. He is a rather large figure on stage but he has an expressive face and good body posture which contributed to create a sympathetic character. He sang with full tone and no vices. Amfortas is the second Wagner role the excellent Gerald Finley has added to his vast repertoire. This superb singer sang with beauty of tone, immaculate phrasing, perfect diction and moved with conviction. Willard White repeated his menacing, dark voiced Klingsor, but dramatically the second act was a rather tame and confused affair. There was an attractive mysterious translucent cube on stage dominating the action, in this cube appeared the Grail child who was mutilated, there we saw the seduction of Amfortas reenacted, there we saw Parsifalís parents showing sexual passion for each other, and at the end an empty hospital bed to be filled with sick Wagner fans no doubt.

It was not an offensive production, except for the child mutilation which was very disturbing, but it was offensive to the intellect of all those who actually now want more from producers. Donít we all Oliver?

Eduardo Benarroch

 

Return to top of page



Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Rising Stars
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links