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 Performances

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Paul Groves as Parsifal. Act 1. [Photo by Dan Rest]
23 Jan 2014

Parsifal, Chicago

The dimly lit stage becomes gradually suffused with spare light during the prelude to Richard Wagner’s Parsifal in its new production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Parsifal, Chicago

A review by Salvatore Calomino

Above: Paul Groves as Parsifal. Act 1. [Photo by Dan Rest]

 

At the same time a group of youths is awakened and encouraged by Gurnemanz in their prayers of devotion. This daily routine of the Grail community is staged with somber dignity before the King Amfortas is carried onstage in the midst of renewed and heightened suffering. The sudden arrival of Kundry, credited with access to magical powers, gives temporary hope as she beings a balsam with the potential of healing. When the King is brought to his bath Gurnemanz narrates the background of all that has transpired in this community of religious and worldly aspirations. Before the title character makes his first appearance the figures and events listed have created an atmosphere at once stagnant and yet somehow prepared for resolution. In the role of Gurnemanz Kwangchul Youn makes his Chicago Lyric debut. Kundry is also a house debut role for Daveda Karanas. Amfortas is sung by Thomas Hampson. Knights and esquires of the Grail are portrayed by John Irvin, Richard Ollarsaba, Angela Mannino, J’nai Bridges, Matthew DiBattista, and Adam Bonanni. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

The intrusion of Parsifal, sung by Paul Groves in his role debut, was staged with appropriate surprise and confusion generated among members of the Grail community and by the title character himself. Just as the isolated Grail inhabitants recognize Parsifal’s violent deed in killing a wild swan, the protagonist understands his own actions as a natural response to his surroundings (“Gewiß! Im Fluge treffe ich, was fliegt!” [“Of course! I shoot down in flight whatever has wings!”]). The musical and dramatic depiction of these introductory scenes catches the spirit of Wagner’s score and text while yielding an individual approach to the current Lyric Opera production. In his admonishments to the Grail knights and attendants Mr. Youn uses his rich bass voice with remarkable facility. Lines such as “Sorgt für das Bad!” (“Prepare the bath!”) and “Der König stöhnt!” (“The king is groaning!”) are intoned with a sense of authority combined with underlying compassion. Forte pitches were sung as natural extensions of the vocal line and Youn’s intonation showed a deep understanding of the communicated text. At times the pronunciation of unstressed final syllables was overly exact, a tendency which detracted only slightly from an otherwise exemplary Gurnemanz. The fluttering character of Kundry is captured aptly in Ms. Karanas’s approach. She used her secure and extensive vocal range in such lines as, “nur Ruhe will ich … Schlafen! - oh, daß mich keiner wecke! Nein! Nicht schlafen! - Grausen faßt mich!” (“I simply wish to rest … to sleep! Oh, let no one awaken me! But no, not sleep! - Fear takes hold of me!”) in order to emphasize the ambiguity inherent in Kundry’s persona. In the role of Amfortas, as a means to communicating without doubt the King’s suffering Mr. Hampson emoted in an interpretation that should have depended more on a sung line if it were to remain lyrically and dramatically credible. The Parsifal of Mr. Groves is sung with a warm tone suggesting innocence and identification with his mother, important for her descent from the family of the Grail. Decorations performed by Groves on the line “Im Walde und auf wilder Aue waren wir heim” [“We made our home in the forest and on the open meadow”] indicate his identification with kinship and defense of his upbringing until the present. The trio of Gurnemanz, Kundry, and Parsifal interacts with progressing revelations concerning the youth and the atmosphere into which he was destined to find himself. Youn’s character becomes gradually paternal as he recognizes Parsifal’s heritage and attempts to guide him toward the Grail’s true essence. [“nun laß zum frommen Mahle mich dich geleiten” (“now let me lead you toward the sacred repast”)]. After a procession of knights has passed, the King is once again brought in to experience the presence of the Grail at the sacred hour [“hoch steht die Sonne” (“the sun stands now at its height in the sky”)]. In response to Amfortas and his emotional cries of “Wehe!” in this production, Parsifal moves slightly closer to the suffering victim, yet only as a demonstration of curiosity. The collected knights of the Grail, here very well prepared in their diction and controlled projection, recite the invitation “Nehmet vom Brod … Nehmet vom Wein” [“Partake of the bread … Partake of the wine”] before the prostrate Amfortas is removed on his pallet. In the final image before the act’s end Youn as Gurnemanz reacts with appropriate derision over Parsifal’s inaction [“Du bist doch eben nur ein Tor” (“You are nothing but a simple fool”)], as he commands the youth to leave.

The realm of Klingsor in Act Two illuminates the ambivalent character of Kundry and makes further apparent, as if from a distance, the failings in the present generations of the Grail. This act also prepares the audience to experience the resolution of such deficiencies through Parsifal as protagonist during the final act. As such, the trio of performers in Act Two is vital to the continued development of Wagner’s aesthetic. Ms. Karanas and Mr. Groves, joined by the Klingsor of baritone Tómas Tómasson, made of this act a model of vocal and dramatic excitement. Klingsor is dressed in this production in a variegated red costume with the same hue painted onto his face. He is further positioned in a stylized neon structure, also in red, which emits smoke from the tower at his commands. As Tómasson proclaimed “Die Zeit ist da!” and “Herauf zu mir!” [“The time has come!” and “I summon you up to assist me!”] the stage was set for Parsifal’s arrival and Kundry’s obedient responses. Tómasson’s interpretation of the sorcerer is impressive for his vibrant, dramatic vocalism as well as his physical involvement in Klingsor’s demands. His performance of Klingsor’s laugh is equally chilling as he witnesses Parsifal’s approach and describes the hero’s searching glances into the magical garden [“Wie stolz er nun steht auf der Zinne!” (“How proudly he is standing there on the parapet!”)] After Klingsor’s interaction with Kundry, he conjures the flower-maidens to tempt Parsifal. This scene was effectively staged with costumes and movements even overdone in some respects. Kundry’s subsequent attempts to seduce Parsifal and her further revelations concerning his heritage and mother Herzeleide were delivered by Karanas with superb control, especially in the upper register. Groves’ Parsifal truly came into his own in this act, as he unleashed dramatic pitches on “Die Klage” (“The lament”) and a moving legato approach to “Erlösungswonne” (“joy of redemption”).

In a fitting preparation for the resolution of Act Three the production stages clearly the demise of Klingsor and his realm via his own spear. Parsifal catches the weapon to put an end to this magical and destructive kingdom. With this spear and resolve to atone for his own failings Groves as Parsifal proceeds to seek out the Grail as Act three develops. His ultimate healing of Amfortas’s interminable cries of “Wehe!” with the application of the spear, now transformed in its effect, elevates both the kingdom of the Grail and Parsifal’s own position in this production’s unforgettable transformation.

Salvatore Calomino

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):