IOL (South Africa), April 9 2013
By Paul Boekkooi
Wagner: Parsifal, Metropolitan Opera, 2 March 2013 (Kino)
A modern vision of salvation
RATING: *****
A specific purity and spirituality breathes through Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal. In its extended Prelude two principal themes are depicted: religious duties and the sadness brought about by Amfortas’s sinful forgetfulness of them.

In allegorical terms it also depicts the triumph of Christianity over paganism.

But, alas, it is not all that simple. Parsifal is ambiguous, metaphysical, profound and mostly inexpressible.

This leaves a wide range of possibilities open to the director to enlighten his audience on the rich legacy of myths and symbolism in this morality drama. Canadian François Girard resets the medieval story in a parched landscape (post-apocalyptic perhaps?), reminding us of TS Eliot’s Wasteland.

However, in Girard’s vision every movement on stage develops from the musical impulse, while the theme of spiritual redemption started to shine brighter as the storyline evolved.

Daniele Gatti’s conducting, a trifle stodgy in Act 1, grows with intensity and feeling with the work itself, while in Act 3 there is rather more transcendent spirituality than adrenaline surges in the playing.

What makes this Parsifal a must-see is the once-in-a-lifetime cast. Jonas Kaufmann has everything going for him in the title role. His dynamic but steady voice throughout his impressive range gives him total control in depicting the character’s anguish and eventual serenity in this sincere, inward interpretation.

Kaufmann still looks and acts like a stubborn teenager in Act 1, but overwhelms at the moment of truth in Act 2.

René Pape as Gurnemanz is more than an exemplar of sonorous tone, admirable power, steadiness and meaningful articulation, but his often forceful presence also resonates with a poetic vision.

Peter Mattei as the wounded King Amfortas brings a well-rounded character to the stage.

His anguishing is detailed and intense, but it is especially on a vocal level that he brings strength and nobleness to the character.

Katarina Dalayman’s voice as Kundry is carefully nurtured. She only remotely demonstrates a couple of rough patches in her high register. Her characterisation of the only prominent female in the opera is filled with unusual touches.

Evgeny Nikitin is the epitome of malice as the evil wizard Klingsor.

The bloody second act, in which thousands of litres of fake blood are used, soiling the long white dresses of the sexually charged ninja-like maidens who protect Klingsor, does make its mark. It might well have overpowered the sensibilities of Wagner traditionalists.

The Met Chorus – men in Act 1, women in Act 2, and both in Act 3 – is once again of superb vintage. The former’s urgent pleading for the Grail to be uncovered is something to wonder at.

There is a healing balm uncovered in the final scenes of this Parsifal. It is found in the symbolism of Girard’s vision. It’s not related to women’s lib, but rather to the male-female duality of all creation. It is one of many possible sources of salvation found within the subtext of this opera.

This Parsifal is the bright star among the Metropolitan Opera’s Wagner productions.

• Screening at all Cinema Nouveau and selected Ster-Kinekor theatres.

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