The Daily Telegraph, August 11, 2017
Steve Moffatt, Wentworth Courier
Wagner: Parsifal, Sydney, 9. August 2017
Jonas Kaufmann brings a positive glow to Opera Australia's concert hall Parsifal
TAKING on the role of Wagner's “perfect fool” Parsifal in an evening suit is a bit like asking your soprano to sing Carmen in sensible shoes.
It shouldn’t work, but when your tenor is German superstar Jonas Kaufmann supported by a top-notch international and local cast under the astute baton of noted Wagnerian Pinchas Steinberg, it becomes an awe-inspiring night.

Everyone — from singers to the Opera Australia Orchestra, chorus and children’s choir — was on top form for this first of three performances of Wagner’s last opera. And the audience loved it too. Stretching out to a little under five and a half hours, including a 45-minute and 30-minute interval, it is an endurance test, but the packed house stayed to the end with few exceptions.

Kaufmann, of course, was the star attraction with a gold standard voice across the range. But he also showed his acting skills as the hero transforms from a childlike innocent who shoots down a swan to a man who discovers his identity and saves the knights of the Holy Grail from the machinations of the evil magician Klingsor.


American mezzo soprano Michelle DeYoung was perfect as Kundry, a woman cursed to eternity for laughing at Christ’s crucifixion and an unwilling pawn in Klingsor’s web of intrigue. The pivotal scene where she attempts unsuccessfully to seduce Parsifal was superbly realised, her visceral aria with its dramatic leaps was spine-tingling.

Another international star, Korean bass Kwangchul Youn, gave a wonderful multi-layered performance as Gurnemanz, the old knight who realises that Parsifal could be the fool who saves the king, Amfortas, who is incapacitated after Klingsor wounds him with the Holy Spear.

The home grown baritones were also very impressive, with Michael Honeyman, fresh from his triumph as the lead in King Roger, superb as the anguished Amfortas, and Warwick Fyfe exuding evil and menace in the role of the villainous sorcerer.

Young bass David Parkin — winner of the Operatunity Oz competition — brought gravitas to the role of the king’s father, Titurel.

Some light relief comes in the second act when six coquettish flower maidens try to get off with Parsifal, nicely done by Stacey Alleaume, Jane Ede, Anna Dowsley, Eva Kong, Julie Lea Goodwin and Dominica Matthew.

Steinberg’s judgment of tempo was spot-on, slow enough for the long-breathed lines of instruments and voices, but never dragging.

The lack of visual action in the religious ceremonies in this concert performance did mean the dramatic effect was somewhat lessened but effective use of lighting and the addition of surtitles did offer some compensation.

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