Monday, 28 March 2016

Richard Wagner, Parsifal - Wiener Staatsoper

Performance 27th March

In view of the staging and scenery I only want to underline the elements that I appreciated in this neither revolutionary interpretation of Wagner’s „sacred festival drama“ nor disturbing production; in general Christine Mielitz’ staging and Stefan Mayer’s scenery supported the plot and did not come up with any absurd ideas. The whole portrayal of the Holy Grail’s fellowship was suitable with the knights in full armour and their swords and also their Squires as fencers. The ritual of the Holy Grail’s revealing was described as the Holy Communion with bread and wine while the stage moved upwards and the choir sang from beneath, invisible for the motionless and introverted gazing knights beyond. So the singing choir during this ritual was like a voice from within for the single knights, Titurel and Amfortas above and transcended the whole strange rite. Even if the scenery in the second act was almost the same as in the first, I liked how the walls started to rotate at the climax of the music and the plot, when Parsifal destroys Klingsor’s world. This effect increased the imagination of Klingsor’s collapsing magic and his „deceiving splendor“. Also visually appealing impacts were created by light effects on the slightly transparent huge cloth behind the scenery.
Vocally solid but unfortunately not precise enough in his diction was Boaz Daniel’s Klingsor that could have been performed a little bit more diabolical. As one of the highlights of this evening Michael Volle was a perfectly convincing Amfortas in his suffering and death wish. Volle has got a very rich and multifaceted baritone voice and no matter which role he performs, his acting always is so powerful that he carries the audience along in an incredible way. You just had to believe in Amfortas’ agony and understand why he has to let his own father die because of Volle’s stage presence. Volle gave Amfortas the significance that this role actually has, even if the vocal part is not the longest one in this opera.
With a great endurance Falk Struckmann performed an incorruptible Gurnemanz whose narrations were put into shape affecting and gripping at the same time. Because of his performance there could arise no boredom during the long first act.
For a successful climax in this opera you need a superior Kundry, so the second act can unfold its whole dramatic potential. Violeta Urmana’s voice comprises everything to reach this climax. Her low and middle register are very sonor while she is also able to reach her highest tones in a very controlled and powerful but not hysteric way. She did not have to struggle during the intense second act and particular peaks of her role such as the two „irre“-shouts and her whole curse of Parsifal at the last minutes of the second act were simply thrillingly impressive. She also performed her whole part with  an incredible distinction of the language, so you could understand almost every single word clearly.
Stephen Gould seems to have endless resources of energy in his voice. Because of his strong high register and his huge stamina he is a very reliable Wagnerian tenor and his Parsifal was bursting with youthful strength. Not even in the second act with Parsifal’s long monologues you could hear any signs of fatigue in Gould’s voice and the last twenty minutes in Klingsor’s world with Gould and Urmana were pure intensity. Gould never had any problems to prevail against the huge orchestra. Even if Gould does not have the largest facet of tonal colors, this is what a Wagnerian heldentenor’s voice should sound like.
Adam Fischer conducted the Orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper with an instinctive feeling and created a very transparent sound that was balanced highly accurate. Fischer’s interpretation of the score was greatly nuanced both at piano parts with subtle instrumental solos and at fierce parts like the finale of the second act with its vigorous drumbeats, so no details got lost in the tone richness.
Reviewed by Lukas Leipfinger

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