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Skill and sensitivity

Wagner's 'Parsifal'
from Baden-Baden -
enjoyed by
ROBERT ANDERSON

'The singing is generally superb, with the Gurnemanz of Matti Salminen quite outstanding.'

Wagner: Parsifal. © 2005 Opus Arte

I am constantly amazed by the timidity of Wagner producers. With so elemental a work as Parsifal to hand, it is nothing but a lost opportunity not to apply it directly to the seething passions of today. Give me the chance to mount the piece and I would scan the world for characters to fulfil Wagner's vision. Kundrys will always abound, uncertain whether to opt for kitchen or career. Equally fascinating ambiguities might be established by a Condoleezza in the role, though Act 2 might have to conclude the performance. As Klingsor why not an Ariel (or Caliban)? There's a start; the rest of the cast would quickly fall into place.

Waltraud Meier as Kundry in 'Parsifal' at Baden-Baden. DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte
Waltraud Meier as Kundry in 'Parsifal' at Baden-Baden. DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte

So what's on offer from Nikolaus Lehnhoff (director) and Raimund Bauer (sets) at Baden-Baden? The opening forest is a bullet-pitted grey wall, towards which Kundry alights in a gale of fresh air in a Papagena-like costume, which she presumably had the good sense to pick up somewhere in Arabia when visiting local herbalists on behalf of Amfortas. The Flower Maidens have the right idea when got up as 'bunnies', hunters rather than the hunted. I am not sure about Titurel, who seems to have been lent from some ancient Egyptian 'Mummy' film, ready at some more adventurous moment of return to terrify the passengers on a London bus.

Bjarni Thor Kristinsson as Titurel. DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte
Bjarni Thor Kristinsson as Titurel. DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte

 

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Copyright © 18 May 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK

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