Saturday, 26 March 2016

Richard Wagner, Parsifal - Staatsoper im Schillertheater Berlin

Performance 25th March

I had the immense pleasure to attend one of the final performances of a living legend in one of the roles of her life. Waltraud Meier is saying goodbye to the role that started her international career in a three performance run at the Staatsoper Berlin. After 33 years singing this role and surely being the most intensive performer in this role for more than 3 decades the whole evening was more or less an hommage to her artistry. But first about the production.
Dmitri Tcherniakov (also responsible for the stage) brought a very intersting interpretation on stage with great lead of the characters. Many small details told the story of Parsifal very appropriately and showed that there are still directors that are capable of displaying human emotions. The stage looked very interesting and also some kind of solemnly, only the second act in its sterility did not really appeal to me. Elena Zaytseva's costumes suited this whole surroundings very well and gave a great impression in combination with the stage.
The musical performance was led by Daniel Barenboim who conducted the opera very slowly and solemnly with great pathos. Only to hurry through the flowermaiden scene with quite a rapid tempo. Moreover I had the feeling that the orchestra sometimes played just too loudly and Barenboim should have kept them a little more under control. The Staatskapelle Berlin followed his lead and played very dignifiedly and accurately, but as I said, just a bit loud from time to time. Anyway, especially the brass section sounded magnificently and very balanced throughout the performance. A great performance was also achieved by the Staatsopernchor which sounded really impressively. Especially during the final act I was really touched by the choir.
The many smaller roles were casted quite well even though the flowermaidens (Julia Novikova, Adriane Queiroz, Anja Schlosser, Sónia Grané, Narine Yeghiyan, Natalia Skrycka) could have sounded more balanced and a little bit unrehearsed.
Titurel was sung by Matthias Hölle who has a dignified dark bass voice that suited his role perfectly. It was actually also quite interesting that he sang while lying in a coffin most of the time. His performace was full of authority and was really convincing.
The role of Klingsor (in this production a pedophile old guy) was performed by Tómas Tómasson who mostly convinced with his incredible portrayal of the character. His vocal performance was solid but not really outstanding. Anyway he did a good job, especially with his acting skills.
Wolfgang Koch also gave a great performance with his very lyrical baritone voice. He was able to portray the despair and desperation of his character very appropriately. His voice combines power and a very lyrical phrasing which concludes with a highly musical performance.
In the role of Gurnemanz we heard great German bass René Pape who has an extraordinary instrument. It is incredible that he sings on such a high level for decades now and still is able to give such intensive and convincing performances. The quality of his voice and his great musicality are always a garantor for a successful evening. This evening he gave a brilliant convincing performance once again and made a great impression.
The main reason for me to see the performance (and I think I was not the only one) was Waltraud Meier in her last series as Kundry. Noone has ever portrayed this role more intensively and more convincingly. Even before she sang her first note she captured the audience with her incredible stage presence. Her acting skills are legendary and definitely unmatchable. After 33 years of performing this role she might feel as comfortable in the upper register as she did years ago but the overall impression is still impeccable. Especially her great scene during the second act was so intensive that I had goosebumps throughout the whole act. Her high b on the word "lachte" was still bloodcurdling and showed that she is still able to convince in this role. I cannot say  how lucky and blessed I felt to have attended this incredible performance and see her one final time in this role.
But Meier was not the only highlight of the evening. Austrian tenor Andreas Schager proved that he is definitely a voice to remember. His performance as Parsifal was exemplary and was unbelievably impressive. He is not afraid of phrases in the upper register and the immense power of his voice throughout the whole range is astonishing. The high notes are clear and shiny and the lower register sounds excellently as well. Also his diction is exemplary and his phrasing shows a great sense for music-dramatic phrasing.
After the performance the audience went crazy, especially for Meier and Schager. Meier was visibly touched by the reaction of the crowd and also seemed kind of relieved. I am really happy to have seen this performance and give 9 start to the farewell Parsifal of Waltraud Meier.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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