A festival music-drama in three acts in German
Music & Libretto by Richard Wagner
Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis
Stage Director: John Caird
At the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Stunning visual and sweepingly music propel Wagner’s final opera
Richard Wagner’s 1882 farewell opera, Parsifal, in a stunning new production at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is a sensual magnificent event. It takes us into the world of Wagner as an epic journey through the mythical Teutonic lure filled with Germanic folk lute with strong Christian symbols and imagery. Playing on a gorgeous colorful set (designed by Johan Engels) with strong lighting (by Duane Schuler ), director John Caird’s (from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the original director of Les Miserables) new production is a visual and dramatic event of the first order. With Sir Andrew Davis’ spirited Wagner score in a full lush sound, Parsifal entices and endures for its five hour performance.
Parsifal is the story of a mythical kingdom in Monsalvat containing knights charged with looking after the Holy Grail and the Holy Spear. When the old King Titurel (Runi Brattaberg) abdicated in favor of his son Amfortas (Thomas Hampson), he tried to end the conflict with Kligsor (Tomas Tomasson). Anfortas suffered a never-healing wound. An elderly knight, Gurnemanz (Kwangchul Youn), the opera’s narrator, defends Kundry (Daveda Karanas) to the knights and to Amfortas. When a young boy kills a swan, he is dubbed a ‘pure fool.’ When he witnesses the ceremony of the Grail, he is clueless as to its meaning.
Act Two finds us in the vivid world of Klingor and his ward Kundry. he gloats over his victory over Amfortas. Kundry tries to entice the innocent Parsifal through the Flower maids into sensual conduct. Parsifal resists and Klingsor tries to impale Parsifal but he seizes the spear.
In Act Three , twenty years have passed and Parsifal returns to the now shattered kingdom. He is now a redeemed man filled with compassion and religious zeal. He cures Amfortas and Kundry as he assumes the throne of Monsalvat. Wagner’s opus is filled with philosophical illusions and Christian imagery with hints of Buddheism and Schopenhauer.
As an opera, the score is hauntingly wonderful with power and a sensitivity that makes the pageantry and ceremonial actions soar. This is a nicely sung opera that finds Kwangchul Youn’s rich bass leading the way with fine vocals from Daveda Karanas and Tomas Tomasson and Thomas Hampson. I was disappointed with Paul Groves as Parsifal. I thought he didn’t have the necessary vocal range to sustain the role of Parsifal. However, the over all production was stunning. The visuals and the staging of Act One was thrilling as it took us into the mythical forest of Wagner’s world. That was one of the most enticing first acts I’ve ever witnessed at the Lyric Opera despite the lack of super titles for the first few minutes.
Don’t let the five hours fool you or deter you from enjoying the power and spectacle of grand opera. Just accept and cherish that it is a full transformation into the magnificent world of Wagner. Bring food since there as three intermissions. Look at it as an adventure and simply let the joys of opera sweep into your psyche. The payoff is a dazzling experience that is unforgettable.
Talk theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed” November 13, 2013
For more info checkout www.lyricopera.org, through November 29, 2013