- Lyric Opera/Dan Rest
- The fool, about to be enlightened
On the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht you were at Parsifal?
It was a coincidence.
You know that Wagner was Hitler’s favorite composer?
I think the opera he really liked was Meistersinger. This one is a five-hour sit without (as Mark Twain noted) any good tunes for the vocalists.
What about all that mystical leader/pure brotherhood stuff?
Wagner’s inspiration was a medieval Grail poem, which he expanded in his own libretto. It’s a mess, but this much comes across: (1) Women are dangerous; (2) If you just say “no” to sex with them, you could be king; (3) But not if you castrate yourself to avoid temptation.
The first and third acts are a bit of a snore, though there’s a lot of movie soundtrack potential in the orchestral music, handily played by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Davis. Bass Kwangchul Youn, as an old knight, is stuck with relating a bunch of backstory but has a very nice voice. And there are a couple of arresting visuals: airborne, single-winged swans and a giant golden hand that looks like it’s in the wrong opera.
But get yourself a cup of coffee at the first intermission. You want to be awake for the second act which, comparatively, rocks. It has sets and costumes that are Flash Gordon crossed with Arabian Nights, as well as the opera’s most riveting character, the nasty Klingsor, admirably inhabited by baritone Tomas Tomasson. It’s also the point where the wild woman, Kundry (soprano Daveda Karanas), gets her Cinderella moment, transforming into seductress mode and putting the moves on Parsifal.
Does she succeed?
You won’t get a spoiler from me, but what Parsifal learned through our long, shared ordeal is that the best thing is hanging out with the brotherhood, feeling their pain, and passing the chalice around.
Also, not to get careless with your special spear.
Parsifal continues at Lyric Opera at 6 PM tonight and for four more performances through November 29.