Lascaux cave art

Lascaux cave art

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Langridge`s ROH Parsifal-a Review by Wotans Krieger

On 18/12/13 I sat through and endured the latest modernistic interpretation of Wagner`s Parsifal by the Royal Opera House under the directorship of Stephen Langridge. I say "endured" because this was as modernistic as you can make it. The worst part of the work was Act I where Langridge had all the Grail knights dressed as bespectacled bank clerks. Some of these knights or squires were obviously female which is not what Wagner intended. If this were not bad enough one of these females was an oriental and one of the male singers,dressed as an American hospital porter[or was it as an ice cream salesman?] was a negro. He also sang  as well as performed like a negro. Clearly the timbre of his voice was not appropriate for a work of this nature. The other obvious negro in the cast was Willard White who I must admit pulled off a breathtaking Klingsor. There are some Wagnerian roles which I have no objection to being given to negroes, particularly if like him they have a good and powerful voice. His acting unlike the other one was convincing. However he should never have been given the role of Wotan just as a European should never be expected to play Nelson Mandela! Wagner is not merely opera: it is MUSIC DRAMA and as such the people must be believeable in the role they portray. Wagner is a Teutonic God: our Gods should never be portayed by people who are of non-Europid race. That is common sense! Equally as ridiculous is the playing of Heimdall in the Thor film[which I have no intention of seeing] by an oriental.

To compound things further Langridge`s version of the Grail was in Act I a prebuscent boy dressed in a nappy whose side was pierced and from which `blood` flowed.  This was wrong on so many different levels and indeed I found it sick, immoral and an absolute disgrace. Goodness knows what Langridge was thinking of when he introduced this shameful spectacle. I get the impression that he was appealing to an audience unversed in Wagner and behving like a second rate Hollywood film director wanted to introduce a shock value to pull the punters in. I see no other logical or artistic reason for substituting a Grail, which should be either a chalice or a stone for a bleeding young boy in a nappy! It is insanity! In Act III the boy in a nappy becomes a young man in a nappy!

Acts II and III were marginally better. At least they were shorter and one could focus more on the powerful singing of Kundry, sang extremely well and acted brilliantly by Angela Denoka. One needs to remember that with Wagner on stage the acting is almost as important as the singing and Denoka was exceptional. Also of note was Rene Pape as Gurnemanz-shame about the clothing!

One thing I could not understand was the presence of a ridiculous cube in the centre of the stage. Again it made no logical or artistic sense. The flower maidens in Act II were a pleasant diversion from the lunacy of the stage set. I noticed that the more attractive and younger flower maidens took centre stage whilst the older and less attractive ones looked on from the sides. I am not sure what the intention was there unless Langridge was particularly short of young ladies who could also sing well, thus hiding away the more matronly ones as vocal support?

Somon O`Neill as Parsifal for me was not very believeable. His singing was adequate for the most part, his acting rather limited in expression. For him to be a believable Parsifal he needs to shed a few stone in weight. This is a common problem with opera singers and there is no excuse for being fat. These things would not matter if this was just a sound performance but it is a music drama and there needs to be more realism in this respect.

Finally there is the matter of Parsifal being blinded by Klingsor in Act II. This does not actually happen in Wagner`s Parsifal but in LANGRIDGE`S Parsifal everything is fair game! Again this toying with and distortion by directors of Wagner`s very clear and precise stage direction notes must not be tolerated. This was neither Wagner, nor was it art!

You may be wondering why I went to see this production and the simple answer is it is not often that a Wagner production is screened in the small country town in which I live, so good or bad I had to see it! I would recommend that if this charade is ever released on DVD that you do not buy it. Instead purchase the more realistic and very traditional Wolfgang Wagner production, filmed at Bayreuth in July 1998, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli and starring the very Nordic Poul Elming as Parsifal. You will not regret the investment.

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