Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Parsifal at The Met: Revival Redemption at Monsalvat


I had some difficulty tuning in last night and, there were several glitches on Sirius including an infuriating “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System . . . “ a few minutes into one of Gurnemanz’s 3rd act monologues and worse – Sirius dropping out during Parsifal’s final line and receiving the “content not available” message before Mahler began playing from another Sirius channel. Even these, however couldn’t (fully) spoil the effect that was being made over the air, and, based on good evidence, emanating from the house itself.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin led what can only be described as an extraordinary reading of an extraordinary score and his love for this score was made palpable in its execution. Moments, like some of those orchestral interludes during Gurnemanz’s monologues that change its tone which many others either gloss or languish over, here crackled with life, a vibrancy in the strings that was electric. The first transformation scene went about as beautifully as Knappertsbusch, with a similar sense of moving forward and at Gurnemanz’s response (my favorite line from any opera) to Parsifal’s observation:

"Du siehst, mein Sohn,
zum Raum wird hier die Zeit!"


We were all along for that journey. Here was shape and form, expansive where it needed to be, then firm . . . taut with a momentum like some great galactic force pulling each of us, inexorably, into its core. I was, as I always want to be by Parsifal, overwhelmed and transported.



That same care and detail, without being over precious was to be heard also in the Good Friday music, every measure part of the journey.

In the title role Klaus Florian Vogt will not likely be to the liking of some (most?) of our listers here. My first encounter with him – about ten years ago – found me perplexed . . . the tone that, I thought, of a countertenor. After a few years I’ve come to love his interpretations of both Parsifal and Lohengrin. Vogt began his musical career as a horn player with the Philharmoniker Hamburg and played in the pit for Parsifal. There is a purity of tone – almost treble like – in his singing that I feel works wonderfully in this role paired against both Frau Herlitzius and Herr Pape
brought an interesting aural tapestry, all the richer for its inclusion of light.

Making her company debut, Evelyn Herlitzius offered a wonderfully drawn Kundry. Bolder than many, more wild than some in her delivery. When she wanted sleep, you just know that no one in the world has ever been more exhausted than this lady. She took interesting liberties with her laugh at Klingsor – beginning it earlier and lasting longer and less “measured” than one is generally accustomed to. She was sensational and different than my other favorite Kundries who offered more plush to their sound (think Ludwig, Troyanos, et. al.) and more in the Modl and Meier vein. Whatever she did, it all boiled down to making me believe she really was Wagner's most fascinating character.

Of Klingsor, all one can say of Evgeny Nikitin is that he sings the role as though born to it. Too often for my taste has Klingsor had a wiry sound, more “Merlin the Magician” not enough menace. Not so Nikitin who roars through the part like a beautiful, sexy howling beast. There was evil, snarling beautifully through and, for some folks who like the darker side, there is a sinister, sensuality in the terror he offers with no apology. Brilliant.

His Blumenmädchen sounded sexier than usual, girly and wild (“Girls Gone Wild,” I remarked to friends last night on FB). They definitely didn’t sound like middle-aged matrons in caftans beckoning a hefty tenor in boy’s clothing. There was definite “snap” going on in their sound which somehow managed to be both luscious and lean. Delightful.

When Peter Mattei first took on Amfortas everyone (including me) thought why? Well, he showed us all why when this production first appeared here, and, as though we could possibly forget, reminded us again last night. The elegiac quality of his suffering is exquisitely portrayed, the sound, focused, unforced, open with a raw beauty so exposed it almost feels “raw.”

Rene Pape has, from the beginning, been one of the most beautifully sung, sonorous Gurnemanz in my experience. He belongs up there with the best interpreters of the role. While at this stage of the game a singer could just offer what he knows would “sell” – Pape goes beyond this. One can hear some age in his voice, softening the old knight’s sternness, and, if at all possible, deepening the intensity, whilst balancing it with gentleness. Nowhere was this more evident than in the Good Friday music, where he evokes nature itself and spins out such tenderness in:

"Nun freut sich alle Kreatur
auf des Erlösers holder Spur,
will sein Gebet ihm weihen
."

Just his mere utterance of “Kreatur” is a model of exquisite word painting.

Everything about this performance lifted my heart up last night, made me glad to be alive right now regardless of what else is happening in this crazy world. For six hours last night we had the opportunity to be lost in the time space continuum on our way to Monsalvat.

I can hardly wait to experience this live in a few weeks – and that, friends, is an understatement.

Photo Credits: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

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