Well before pulp novelists, absurdist comedy troupes and Steven Spielberg came along, the Holy Grail legend sparked the creative juices of the ultimate maximalist, Richard Wagner. Parsifal—epic in theme and length, and intended to be as much a religious spectacle as a theatrical one—arrives at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday 15, with a photogenic new production and a dream cast.
This might sound eerily familiar to New York opera fans, especially Wagner acolytes. Just two seasons ago, the Met scrapped its traditional Otto Schenck Ring cycle to accommodate Robert Lepage’s whirling machine and souped-up projections. This new Parsifal also trades Schenck’s fairy-tale mise en scène for a starkly modern conception by another Cirque du Soleil alum, director François Girard. Though this is Girard’s Met debut, he has employed the services of veteran set designer Michael Levine—who was behind the company’s picturesque, well-received Madama Butterfly—for this coproduction, which premiered last year at the Opéra National de Lyon in France.
Even detractors won’t find a weak spot among the singers. The debonair Jonas Kaufmann brings his burnished tenor to the title role for the first time at the Met. He is joined by a number of proven Wagnerians, including René Pape as the wise Grail knight Gurnemanz, Evgeny Nikitin as the evil Klingsor and Katarina Dalayman as the cursed Kundry. Peter Mattei, familiar to Met audiences as the prankster Figaro, debuts in the role of the suffering king Amfortas; Daniele Gatti conducts through March 2, after which Asher Fisch takes up the baton.—Amanda Angel
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