Parsifal, Royal Opera House, London
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Monday 10 December 2007
The wigwam is still there; so is the Damien Hirst shark and some of the worst costuming outside of bring-and-buy. Only one of the above stars is for Klaus Michael Grber's dismal 2001 staging of Wagner's final opera. Frankly, it should never have been revived. Not even for Bernard Haitink, returning to the House for the first time since he stepped down as music director in 2002. His Wagnerian credentials have always been impressive; wisdom and patience are great attributes in this work, especially as the Motif of the Sacrament swells, solo trumpet piercing the string arpeggiations like the point of the holy Spear.
But then Parsifal kills the swan and we are expected to suspend disbelief in not imagining that it is a pair of Kundry's bloomers blown off a nearby washing line. Grber's staging ("revived" by Ellen Hammer) is so static, it's hard to believe that a director was ever present at rehearsals. Someone should have told both of them the difference between simple and prosaic. After a feeble transformation scene, the single most powerful image in the show a re-imagining of the Last Supper stretching the width of the stage is so far downstage that Amfortas and his knights are marooned behind it for the duration. Falk Struckmann projects Amfortas's torment with searing immediacy, but the staging cramps his style.
This is a show in which there is no visual equivalent to the atmosphere and musical awe that Wagner delivers in every bar. The lighting designers must have been otherwise engaged on the days that their work was scheduled. Suffice it to say, poor Willard White has his work cut out mustering authority in a bad dressing gown and handfuls of cheap bling, while Christopher Ventris's one-dimensional Parsifal wears his ER scrubs in full expectancy of the next trauma. Which is never long in coming.
I mentioned Haitink's patience in this score. It, too, errs on the side of static now and then especially at the start of Kundry's long Act II narration. Once Petra Lang recovers from an entrance that would have shamed Shirley Bassey, she moves in for the kill with a thrilling range of vocal colours. But like everyone else in this sorry enterprise, she is abandoned to operatic clich. John Tomlinson's beautifully enunciated Gurnemanz sounds a little frayed in some of his benevolent legatos, but his storytelling supplies the animation this staging so woefully lacks. He and Haitink should have been reunited in happier circumstances.
In rep to 21 December (020-7304 4000)
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 Fearne Cotton quits Radio 1 after ten years for 'family and new adventures'
Seinfeld is laughing all the way to the bank: TV show generates $3.1bn in repeat fees since final episode
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Blade Runner sequel: Harrison Ford confirmed to return with Denis Villeneuve directing
All fiction follows one of six basic storylines, according to new research
House of Cards season 3 premiere, review: Has Frank Underwood gone soft?
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia