Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Parsifal, Opéra de Nice
02 Feb 2010

Parsifal on the Cote d’Azur

Parsifal had its first performances in Bayreuth in 1882 where it was soon seen by Wagner’s soul mate Friedrich Nietzsche. And there the friendship ended.

Richard Wagner: Parsifal

Parsifal: Gary Lehman; Kundry: Elena Zhidkova; Amfortas: Jukka Rasilainen; Gurnemanz: Kurt Rydl; Titurel: Victor von Halem; Klingsor: Peter Sidhom; Two Knights: Yuri Kissin, Richard Rittelmann; Four Squires: Caroline Mutel, Marie Gautrot, William van der Heyden, Antoine Normand; Six Florwer Maidens: Barbara Ducret, Stéphanie Loris, Marie Gautrot, Catherine Hunold, Caroline Mutel, Lucie Roche. Conductor; Philippe Auguin. Mise en scène and sets: Roland Aeschlimann. Choreography: Lucinda Childs. Stage Director: Dagmar Pischel. Costumes: Susanne Raschig. Lighting: Lukas Kaltenback. Orchestre Philharmonique de l’Opéra de Nice. Choir of the Opéra de Nice. Childrens Chorus of the Opéra de Nice.

Photographs: Ville de Nice / P.Tallon

 

Nietzsche and possibly most everyone else have been ever after bewildered by Wagner’s renunciation of love. After all love had always been the overwhelming motivation for the antics of Wagnerian mythology.

In 1883 Nietzsche began his winter sojourns to Nice and the mild winters of the French riviera where he envisioned his diatribe Nietzsche contra Wagner. But neither Parsifal nor any other Wagnerian masterpieces have been frequent visitors to this gentle climate of subtle sensual beauty. And not only because climatic subtlety and cruel philosophy seem at odds with one another, but also because when Nice re-built its opera house in 1882 the city fathers looked to old Italian theaters as models rather than to the latest theatrical theories and techniques from Bayreuth. Wagner’s mature operas are simply too huge to stuff into a small horse-shoe theater of delicate decoration.

The Opéra de Nice is now considered one of the finest monuments of belle époque architecture. With recent renovations and modifications it adequately serves much of the repertory. But for the really big stuff the Opéra de Nice (the name of the opera company and its theater are the same) takes over the 2500 seat Salle Apollon in what is called the Acropolis, an architectural monstrosity designed in the late 1970‘s that holds five other performing spaces, an exhibition hall and a bowling alley or two as well.

The Opéra de Nice is in transition, its new management transforming it into a somewhat adventurous opera company with a serious production standard. This production of Parsifal was its first adventure, and a striking success. Not that artistic chances were taken — it was the 2004 production from the Grand Théâtre de Genève, the metteurs en scène were the Swiss minimalist designer Roland Aeschlimann and the American minimalist choreographer Lucinda Childs. In Nice their original Geneva staging was realized by Dagmar Pischel who imbued it with vibrant new life.

This superb production was well served by a strong cast, led by Kurt Rydl as Gurnemanz whose dramatic presence never faltered and fortunately his voice gained focus as the afternoon progressed (January 17) making his lengthy narrations a powerful frame for Wagner’s Easter saga. Parsifal himself was American Gary Lehman who has effected a transition from baritone to a splendid heldentenor of total security with power to burn. He was willing to attempt the acting of the innocent fool (surely one of opera’s more thankless tasks) redeeming his seeming dramatic naivete with fine vocal art. Russian soprano Elena Zhidkova defined the many facets of Kundry with dramatic precision, and sang securely and beautifully, her second act seduction and supplication convincingly delivered, her third act submission uncomfortable to watch (Nietzsche would have wretched).

Parsifal_Cote_2.gif

The antagonist was English baritone Peter Sidhom, the truly mad magician Klingsor who raged with Wagnerian élan, and was suitably stricken dumb. Finnish bass Jukka Rasilainen can and did possess a black tinted, i.e. colorless voice, ideal for the pitiful state of Amfortas, and well used to document his long suffering. He was well costumed in dreadlocks and black cloth, and then in white face for his death made poignant indeed with the dead Kundry draped across his lap. These two figures in this touching pietà was the culminating moment of this sculptural production.

Aeschlimann and Childs made this Parsifal a ritual of death, the staging realized in poses and tableaus on a sloping stage platform broken by a long horizontal gash, its fore stage area embossed with the names of the knights of the Holy Grail, presumably their and perhaps our own tombs. The tabernacle was giant diminishing perfect circles where finally the grail appeared, a revolving faceted extra-terrestrial object that shone with all the cinematic panache of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.

This inspired minimalism allowed the vivid vocal and musical performances to prevail, and bring us to a state of purification — even Nietzsche found the music of Parsifal to be sublimely beautiful (and maybe finding sublimity is redemption enough these days). Conductor Philippe Auguin paced the prelude very slowly, at first excruciatingly slow, but with time this unworldly pace took us to another realm — rarified teutonic mythology — and it was here that some of Wagner’s greatest music poured forth from the Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice for nearly five hours. Perhaps the poetry of Bayreuth was missing (and we did applaud after the first act), but very real Wagnerian musico-sensual pleasures were notably apparent making this Parsifal’s redemption an unforgettable afternoon on the Cote d’Azur.

N.B. All the subordinate roles were taken by quite accomplished, i.e. world class, performers. This Parsifal was an auspicious new beginning for the Opéra de Nice.

Michael Milenski

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):