Classical-music/BBC Music Magazine
David Nice
Wagner: Parsifal
While Parsifal’s home shrine of Bayreuth seems increasingly unwilling to shed design and historical baggage, François Girard’s production for New York’s Metropolitan Opera simply asserts Wagner’s core values of compassion, understanding and sanctity without distortion. The grail brotherhood, white-shirted and separated from the community’s veiled women by a stream flowing bloody and/or polluted until the end, meets at the start. It’s a larger audience for guardian Gurnemanz’s narrative of past misdeeds than intended – but then the vast Met stage is no place for intimate confessional. And the whole journey, crossing the bloody pool of Klingsor’s dark kingdom to hard-won redemption, is cleanly proportioned against the changing videoscapes of Peter Flaherty’s projections.

Only Hans Hollman’s vision for Zurich sometimes surpasses Girard’s on DVD, chiefly in the Act I ritual, but it can’t boast as uniformly remarkable a cast. Kaufmann is the Parsifal we’ve all been waiting for, plausible as handsome lad and stricken wanderer, even if the voice travels contrariwise from dark to bright. Matching his agonies are those of Peter Mattei’s Amfortas and Katarina Dalayman’s lustrous, secure Kundry, while the relaxed, minimal gestures of René Pape’s Gurnemanz bely the vocal armoury he unleashes in the last Act. Gatti’s pacing isn’t my ideal – inclining to Knappertsbusch’s Bayreuth deliberation rather than Haitink’s model naturalness in Zurich – but on its own terms it’s remarkable. In the short interval chats likeable bass Eric Owens gets thoughtful comments from the main personalities involved.

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