Friday, May 03, 2013

Parsifal: wonderful singing/playing but otherwise disappointing

I had looked forward to the Met Opera Parsifal (the movie version) for months as Parsifal is my all time favorite opera, but to my surprise I was disappointed with the Met Opera version.

Jonas Kaufmann - Met Opera website photo
The singing was wonderful and hearing Jonas Kaufmann sing Parsifal was a treat. Kaufmann says his grandfather had all the Wagner scores and used to play and sing all the parts, so he loved it from the word go. Most of us come to Wagner's music after a long (or very long) journey via other composers and I am trying to imagine what it would be like knowing Wagner's music so young. In Kaufmann's case it has resulted in a tenor who sings all his roles with intelligence and his Parsifal was no exception.

What a pity with such an excellent cast (Gurnemanz-René Pape, Kundry - Katarina Dalayman, Amfortas -Peter Mattei,  Klingsor Evgeny Nikitin) that the production was pedestrian. The unrelenting Christian allusions were not alleviated by any alternative interpretation and it seemed all too facile to me. Perhaps I was unwittingly comparing the first Parsifal I saw, the Schlingensief version in Bayreuth in 2009, which I thought quite stunning.

At the time I saw the Schlingensief version I was one of the few who loved it. (I wrote about it for the Wagner Society of NSW at the time (since removed from their website I think, but you can still read it in Blue Tulips (see

Incidentally, there is a great sung version of Parsifal Act 1 from Radio Nederlands on YouTube.

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