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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Parsifal at the Bayerische Staatsoper

    Parsifal, opera in three acts, sung in German, with German and English supertitles
    Music by Richard Wagner
    Libretto by Richard Wagner, loosely based on Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a 13th-century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail (12th century).

    Premieres: On 12 November 1880 Wagner conducted a private performance of the prelude for his patron Ludwig II of Bavaria at the Court Theatre in Munich. The premiere of the entire work was given in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth on 26 July 1882.

    New Production by the Bayerische Staatsoper (Bavarian State Opera) in Munich, Germany, attended in person.

    This article is part of the Opera Lively coverage of opera houses in the German-speaking area of Central Europe in the Summer of 2018 - see the links to numerous other reviews, interviews, pictorial blogs, and other articles related to this coverage, by clicking [here]

    This review is of the second show of the run, on July 1st, 2018. Subsequent shows will happen on July 5, 8, and 31. The opening performance of the run will be on 26 June at 4 PM CEST, with broadcast by BR-Klassik radio (which can be heard online at . On July 8 at 5 PM CEST the performance will be online on https://www.staatsoper.de/tv . For more information and tickets, consult www.staatsoper.de

    Bayerisches Staatsorchester conducted by Kirill Petrenko
    Chor der Bayerische Staatsoper, Chorus Master Sören Eckhoff
    Kinderchor Master Stellario Fagone

    Stage Director - Pierre Audi
    Sets - Georg Baselitz
    Costumes - Florence von Gerkan
    Lighting - Urs Schönebaum
    Dramaturg - Benedikt Stampfli

    Cast

    • Amfortas - Christian Gerhaher
    • Titurel - Bálint Szabó
    • Gurnemanz - René Pape
    • Parsifal - Jonas Kaufmann
    • Klingsor - Wolfgang Koch
    • Kundry - Nina Stemme
    • Erster Gralsritter - Kevin Conners
    • Zweiter Gralsritter - Callum Thorpe
    • Stimme aus der Höhe - Rachael Wilson
    • Erster Knappe - Paula Iancic
    • Zweiter Knappe - Tara Erraught
    • Dritter Knappe - Manuel Günther
    • Vierter Knappe - Matthew Grills
    • Blumenmädchen - Golda Schultz, Selene Zanetti, Tara Erraught, Noiuvuyiso Mpofu, Paula Iancic, Rachael Wilson

    Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but did not finish it until twenty-five years later. In composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.

    Neither balsam, nor medicinal herbs can provide relief to the wounded and ailing Amfortas, ruler of the Grail kingdom. His path to recovery proves to be a complex one. No member of the Grail community can reclaim the spear which inflicted the wound, but only an outsider, a “pure fool”, enlightened by compassion. Only by the tip of this spear touching Amfortas’s wound can he be healed. On his journey of self-discovery, towards his destiny as chosen deliverer, Parsifal is accompanied, not only by the skilful Grail Knight Gurnemanz, but also by the enigmatic and seductive Kundry, who opens his eyes to sensuality and extrasensory experience.

    Parsifal, a "Bühnenweihfestspiel" (A Stage Inauguration Festival Play), is Richard Wagner’s final musical drama, addressing wounds which fester both within individuals, as well as in society as a whole, before proffering miracle remedies with the ability to ease the pain.

    -------

    Review of the Performance

    Here is a summary in a few words of the paragraphs below: it doesn't get any better that this!

    This performance brought me to tears and strong emotions, and arguably was the best one I've ever attended in my life. Sure, maybe it is an exaggeration and if I think hard, I will remember other spectacular shows I've attended (a Les Troyens at Covent Garden in the excellent company of beloved Opera Lively staff members comes to mind) but still under the overwhelming effect of what I've just witnessed, I'll let the hyperbole stand.

    First, the Bayerische Staatsoper is one incredible organization! The place is classy and beautiful. The very helpful and courteous staff even gave me a second voucher for a free program (courtesy of the Press Department): when trying to take pictures while holding multiple pieces of paper, I dropped my first one and lost it. The snack bar has some very sophisticated finger food with tasty canapés and sandwiches, way better than what we usually get at our opera houses, including the Met. The seats are very comfortable and spacious, with good leg room and perfect view of the stage, meticulously alternated so that even if tall people seat ahead of you, you still see pretty well. One strange piece is that they close the auditorium during intermissions (40-minutes long) so if you are tired and you'd like to sit again you are out of luck. The patrons are very elegantly dressed with lots of tuxedos or at least suit and tie for the gentlemen, so I must have looked like an eyesore. When I was in Bratislava trying to run to make an appointment to interview a singer, I fell and tore my suit pants; of the two I brought for the trip I'm down to one, so when I'm not officially meeting artists and administrators I'm trying to spare my one suit left, therefore I was more casually dressed.

    Another great asset of this opera house is its exquisite acoustics. The bowl is round instead of U-shaped, so it seems like the sound bounces at you from all directions, creating a surround effect of total immersion that is one hell of an acoustic experience. I also like the German and English supertitles side by side; I think this is actually a better solution than the seat-based titles, because we get to understand the words but we also follow the original language diction of the artists.

    Back to the performance:

    Oh my God! Here on Opera Lively our habitual grading system has the maximum of A++ for the very best elements of an opera on stage. Can we open an exception and start distributing A+++ or A++++ grades? If we can, that's the moment to do it, because what we heard is out of this world. I'm speechless. I'm afraid this review will have so much praise that it will become a bit boring.

    The conductor was simply brilliant. Another good point of the Bayerische is that the podium is high enough that the conductor movements are fully visible to the public, and I was fascinated by his command of his forces, and his attention to the stage. I often complain of synchrony problems; no such thing this time! He signaled to the singers each time they were supposed to start, and had perfect tempi an dynamics. OK, let's go: A++++, I think I've rarely seen such conducting perfection.

    The orchestra... oh wow. I'm coming from Vienna where I heard the famous Wiener Philharmoniker (contractually called the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera when they play for the opera company, but it's the same orchestra); I've heard other fabulous orchestras elsewhere (Berlin, Chicago, etc.) but again, it's hard to think of an occasion more perfect than this one. A++++.

    The Nina Stemme show! My seat neighbor to my left appeared to be in tears just like I was, when applauding her at the end and shouting Brava! I'm in tears now while typing this, just from remembering what was arguably the best singing from a female artist I've ever heard live at the theater in entire my life! Her scene when she is begging for Parsifal's attention and gets enraged at the end when he rejects her, I hope it was recorded for DVD, because it needs to be enshrined as one of the best moments in the history of opera. Do I need to say A++++ again?

    René Pape was another thing of beauty. Unlike some other shouting Gurnemanz, he sang the role with delicacy and elegance, as well as power and resolve when needed. A++++ too, no doubt.

    Christian Gerhaher was a one-man tour de force as Amfortas. Another extraordinary singer in this golden cast. The string of A++++ continues.

    Jonas Kaufmann was "just" A+++ (hehe, please put this in context: our maximum is A++ so A+++ is above maximum, but the three above singers were so spectacular that Jonas was a tiny notch below (he seemed a bit tired at the end when his voice faltered briefly a couple of times - but he still delivered lots of poignant moments of sheer beauty).

    Our Klingsor, Wolfgang Koch, delivered another piece of great singing and also deserves the above-maximum score of A+++.

    And then, virtually *all* comprimarios were truly excellent (this show even had the luxury of featuring Tara Erraught in a small role - she did very well), and they all deserve the maximum A++, thanks to their accurate notes.

    The chorus, ah... Sublime, divine sounds in all moments, male or female, soft or loud. Again, this is arguably the best performance by a chorus ensemble I've ever heard live, and it goes to at least A+++.

    To say it a few words, the musical aspects of this show were the highest in my recent and not-so-recent memory.

    Sets, lighting, costumes, projections, blocking, were all expertly done. Instead of nudity, they showed grotesque costumes mimicking nude bodies and the result was striking; much more interesting than some nudity employed on stage for shock value or titillation. Lighting was particularly good, especially in a scene that turns purple. The sinister looking trees were a great touch, and the crumbling wall, which reminded me of Pink Floyd The Wall, resulted in some nice minimalism for the scene when Klingsor gets defeated. Overall, A+ - very good but not the greatest point of the evening (when compared to the musical aspects above described).

    Stage direction: while modern and Regie-looking, it was also respectful to the libretto and didn't get in the way. It had bits of symbolism, such as a world upside down (you can see the trees pending from the roof below in the picture of the curtain calls). I liked it. A+.

    So, the verdict comes to an average of A+++, above the maximum score habitually granted to the very best shows in my system.

    There is one aspect that makes me sad: it is hard to think of anything that might topple this, so as of now, I got standards that will be difficult to match. I felt a bit sad at the end, thinking "it will be downhill from this, from now on, because I'm not likely to see again such a spectacular show, anytime soon."

    This was the fourth opera of my marathon of 16 shows in as many days, and I doubt that any other will be better than this one, so it's likely the high point of my trip. Or maybe Sciarrino's Ti vedo ti sento mi perdo will match it; I have high expectations for this one.

    By the way, after the strange incident yesterday of a lady slapping me on the back because she was upset at my standing up for the ovation, it was refreshing to see the entire audience, no exceptions, even the very old and half-crippled seniors, standing up to applaud the phenomenal cast and conductor. I would love to send this picture to that lady in Vienna, if I had the means to get it to her:

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    Although this dark picture doesn't show it, everybody stood up, not only the people in the boxes.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); July 2nd, 2018 at 09:09 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    What a cast!!!

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The review of Parsifal has been published, scroll up.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. Likes MAuer, Amfortas liked this post
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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Well . . . your favorite opera, so how could you *not* enjoy it?

  6. #5
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    Well . . . your favorite opera, so how could you *not* enjoy it?
    Hehe, the show didn't change my opinion about the opera, at all. I still like the music, and dislike the libretto, as always. It doesn't mean I can't be thrilled with such excellent musical performance just because I'm not a big fan of this libretto.

    I mean, regardless of the libretto, it's still Wagner. Not my favorite Wagner, that's all... but any Wagner opera (minus the very early ones), although not my preferred one, is still miles ahead of most pieces by other composers.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #6
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Yes, what a cast, Christian Gerhaher, Rene Pape, Jonas and Nina, wow!
    Natalie

  8. #7
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    ditto on the wow!

  9. #8
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    LIVE STREAM COMING UP AND AVAILABLE ON DEMAND FOR 24 HOURS AFTER

    https://www.staatsoper.de/en/news/pa...ve-stream.html
    Natalie

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