Monday, January 31, 2011

La Monnaie Parsifal - and now for something completely different

Will hopefully blog more tomorrow about the show (if not then on Tuesday). Singing was as awesome as I expected it to be since three from my short list of the most remarkable singers in 2010 participated in this show (A.Richards, T.J. Mayer, and T. Tómasson), joined by a superb Kundry sung by Anna Larsson. Maestro and the orchestra - terrific!

How to produce a relevant Parsifal after the shows by Herheim, Warlikowski, and Bieito? Well, ask Romeo Castellucci!

It is COMPLETELY different with respect to anything you've seen before. You have to see the show yourselves to make your own idea on what you think it is. Of course I will try and put in words what and how I saw it.

But before I get to that I must say that the second act of this show contains all the elements of good contemporary theater - something that will be remembered as theater circa 2010. It's a truly monumental piece of work that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone to see. I am obviously thrilled to see that this theatrical form found its way to opera so soon.

Had a great seat but the pics I took aren't any good. Sorry! Above: Thomas Johannes Mayer, Anna Larsson, Hartmut Haenchen [take this Christian Thielemann! :)], Andrew Richards, Jan-Hendrik Rootering

The finale of this production however rubbed me the wrong way: climax is missing... the show ends "unspectacularly". I tried to spin and argue that it represents humanity in a hypnotic walk, a collection of individuals wandering aimlessly (which the postmodern society indeed is starting to look like), so it is natural that it ends... lost in space... wandering. Fine, but how do you reconcile that with the music? This lead me to believe that something's been cut out from the final act during the process of mounting this production.

Other than that, AWESOME SHOW!


  1. Thanks for posting this comment and I hope you write some more on it !

    I was there as well yesterday (had a terrible seat).

    For me the pros and cons were in general :
    (may contain spoilers, so if you have not seen it yet, stop reading ;-)

    - Hartmut and the orchestra !
    - singers were top !
    - chorus and extras were top ...
    - blumen-mädchen sang wonderfully.

    - some images that Castellucci came up with were transcendant :
    e.g. :
    * how real was this forest !
    * Klingsor as conductor with extra arm.
    * bondage scenes were shockingly effective.
    * the murmurs of the forest when the grail ceremony start ...
    * the black hole that starts in Amfortas' heart and gets bigger and bigger ...
    * the start of the people's walk and Amfortas' last "Klage".
    * video projections during the seduction scene.
    * hard swinging of the christal lustre in the acopalytic ending of act II.
    * act II as a whole was very very powerful.

    - the lighting in most of these scenes added a lot to the atmosphere and made some images unwordly beautiful.
    - the usage of trained animals worked well, as well in the prelude to act 1 as in the other scenes.


    - the beginning with all the hidden people made it a bit hard to get into the piece emotionally.
    - sometimes I missed the acting out by the singers of the dialogues and its content, but that was obviously not wat Romeo wanted.
    - for me it was a pity that the Blumen-mädchen were not on stage but hidden.
    - as you said already : the ending was underwhelming and not climactic.
    - sometimes the slow, static movements of some of the acting : it was fascinating but maybe a bit distancing.
    - the apotheosis of the grail ceremony with the white ligth and the comma : not bad, but a bit lacking in energy and emotion.
    - the aspect of "mittleid", the human aspect of compassion and Parsifal evolving in a compassionate total human being who is free and can set other people free : this aspect was not completely missing, but it was undervalued.
    As a whole the warmth and humanness of Wagners music was lacking a bit.
    - some of the images and direction were hermetic : this can be positive as well, as it gives people things to figure out for themselves and leaves room for interpretation.

    it was original, thought provoking ...
    it was better that Cassiers in Scala.
    it was much better than Lepage in the Met.

  2. FYI, it is Anna Larsson's debut in the role. Fantastique!

    Yes to ending. Unspectacular…by design. The more spectacular earlier moments of 3 were struck due to balance problems. Karfreitagszauber…should have seen 3 of us flying above the crowd with wires. Moments before? Parsifal being picked up and passed over the heads of the milieu a lá a rock concert. So much technical work done, then struck. A bitter pill to swallow, especially for the 200 figurants who were there to take part.

    But the 'feel' of the very ending is as Roméo wanted. If the grail that Castellucci had in mind was Man's void--it's attempt to find it's missing part--it succeeded to show that there is something that will never be changed. He is alone. Much fulfillment can be found in community, but as Wagner's music depicts, there is still a sad undertone to it. And that is that he will always lack for something. It ends with a question, I believe.

    Roméo does not believe in the afterlife. I think that is important. He attempted, imo, to make this the most humanistic Parsifal he could. The hypnosis you speak of (walking, walking, walking) was mostly for theatrical effect, so that the final moment would have the maximum impact. From what I'm told this is a particular style of his, so that the listener can absorb as much as possible irrespective of their desire to analyze and "make sense of it all."

    Which is perhaps important for someone like you, who is now gonna analyze it. Good luck with that! :-)

  3. Thanks Mackeron. I mostly agree although I think you could give it one more try (if you're in Brussels or nearby).

    It all fits together if you picture the whole shoe as three different states of mind, each trying to grasp our essence -- our Grail, our driving force...

    Hiding in a forest (Act-1) is what we all do; it's our inner-hidden-self that "guides us". Castellucci just made us drown into it for more than an hour (it evaporates towards the end). It's unattainable.

    With such an imagery that takes time to drag you beneath the surface of what you can describe in two tweets, you cannot expect it to be busier onstage. It would ruin its main quality - I think, but it's OK if you see it your way ;)

    Thanks Andrew! I KNEW there was something missing in Act-3. I understand the final statement, and I understand the walk per se, and I got the message that they all converge to something fictitious (trying to seize that driving force) which eventually is emptiness-void. And I can spin the final scene as an optimistic message: deep down you're alone and you have to find your own path through life, your own peace with that "loneliness".
    All that is OK, but there was something missing in act 3 to better resonate with music - and keep our attention to the final scene. Now when you say it, I see I felt it right - indeed there was something more happening during the walk.

    Great show anyway :)

    Hopefully I'll have a quality hour today to blog about Parsifal.