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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Live Broadcast Review: Reigning in Blood

The Met's Live in HD broadcast of Parsifal.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Blood mage: Evgeny Nikitin is Klingsor in the Met's new Parsifal.
Photo by Ken Howard © 2013 The Metropolitan Opera.
Peter Gelb's term as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera has focused around two key initiatives: the introduction of new stagings to replace the fusty extravaganzas of the past, and the popular Met Live in HD series, beaming Met productions around the globe ten times per season.

On Saturday afternoon, those two initiatives merged in the company’s Live in HD broadcast of Parsifal, seen here in a compelling new production by director François Girard. This stark show shone in a broadcast that featured an all-star cast. Multiple cameras recorded the fine details of this director’s vision, revealing small but important visual elements that may not be readily apparent in the vastness of the Met. The performance was enhanced by intermission interviews (hosted by bass Eric Owens) with most of the principal cast, conductor Daniele Gatti and Mr. Girard.

These newly visible elements included an L-shaped brook running downstage and off stage right. This serves as an impenetrable  divide between the white-shirted knights and the mysterious group of veiled women that spent most of Act I huddled mutely upstage. Other details included the red upwelling of blood inside the Grail itself and the multi-denomenational religious fetishes worn by Katherine Dalayman as Kundry in Acts I and III.


The cast (unchanged from the performance seen by this writer on February 19) remains at the top of their collective game. Jonas Kaufmann is a sensitive, beautifully sung Parsifal. In the second act, the handsome German tenor had the power to knock listeners through the back wall of the movie theater. (The fact that the cameras love him doesn't hurt.)  His floated pianissimo on the last phrase of “Öffnet den Schrein” was impressive, coming at the end of a long opera.

He was well-matched with Katerina Dalayman’s focused, carefully paced Kundry. She finally unleashed her instrument in the last part of the long second act duet, singing with a warm, motherly tone that devolved beautifully into demented rage. Also ready for his close-up: Peter Mattei’s haunted, star-making performance as Amfortas, the tormented king whose suffering forms the nexus of the opera’s crisis.

Gurnemanz is a long role, with lots of expository music to sing in the outer acts. René Pape conveys the multiple colors and shades needed in the old knight’s narratives, making the Act I exposition a pleasure to sit through. He is helped by Mr. Girard's imaginative directio of the Grail knights. Seated in a ring around Mr. Pape, they moved as a unit, their white-shirted arms opening and closing like the petals of some unearthly flower, as the sky turned an ominous red.

The singer who benefited most from the close camera work was Evgeny Nikitin as the villainous sorcerer Klingsor. With his suit, his shirt and even his hair soaked in stage blood, he brought some un-Wagnerian rock-and-roll attitude to the role. At the start of Act II, he emerged from the mists at the front of the stage. Dipping his hands in the swirls and eddies of stage blood, he seemed to draw demonic power from the gore, playing the outcast magician with real magic.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.