The Extraordinary Kirill Petrenko Leads a Dream Cast in a New Parsifal

03/07/2018

2018 Munich Opera Festival [1] – Wagner, Parsifal: Bayerische Staatsoper Chorus and Orchestra / Kirill Petrenko (conductor), Nationaltheater, Munich, 1.7.2018. (JMI)

Parsifal at the 2018 Munich Opera Festival © W. Hösl

Cast:

Parsifal – Jonas Kaufmann
Kundry – Nina Stemme
Gurnemanz – René Pape
Amfortas – Christian Gerhaher
Klingsor – Wolfgang Koch
Titurel – Bálint Szabó

Production:

Direction – Pierre Audi
Sets – Georg Baselitz
Costumes – Florence von Gerkan
Lighting – Urs Schönebaum

The annual July Opera Festival in Munich is one of the best, if not the best, of them all, including those of Bayreuth and Salzburg. I have been coming to Munich for the past 14 years, and it is always a special occasion in my operatic year. What can I say about it this time! The festival opens with a truly extraordinary Parsifal, one of those events that any fan singles out as soon as the program is known. It is no surprise that there were so many people from other countries in the theatre.

A great part of this Parsifal’s appeal is the presence of Kirill Petrenko on the podium of the Nationaltheater, with an impressive cast that includes no less than Jonas Kaufmann, Nina Stemme, René Pape, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch. The result fully met my expectations in musical terms, although it fell a little short vocally.

For this special occasion Munich commissioned a new production by Pierre Audi. It is all rather irregular and weighed down by various details in bad taste. The problems, which begin at the end of Act I, persist through the entirety of the Klingsor castle act. For instance, in the final ceremony of the first act, Audi has the Knights of the Grail take communion while apparently naked (they wear clothes depicting nudity). In Act II he does the same with the Flowermaidens, whose supposed nudity seems to be inspired by Botero’s sculptures and bears little relationship to their reputed beauty. Overall, the stage direction is not very interesting, and the costumes fairly unappealing.

In the future, I expect we will see little of Kirill Petrenko in Munich; as is well known, he is replacing Sir Simon Rattle as the music director of the Berlin Philharmonic. How we are going to miss him! His conducting here was prodigious, immense, outstanding; I wish I had the words to be able to transmit the quality of it to my readers. This was a great Parsifal and will long remain in one’s memory. As always, the Bayerisches Staatsorchester was spectacular under his command. The chorus was also impeccable.

The cast assembled by the Munich Opera is a dream one, and it largely met expectations. However, it must be said that in the forest scenes the voice projection was affected by the production, which was very open.

Parsifal was played by Jonas Kaufmann whose performance fell somewhat below his usual standard. Until the kiss with Kundry in the second act, he had a few problems, but he improved from then on and was at his best in the second half of Act II. His voice has not lost quality, but it does not run as easily as it once did. He is well known for his pianissimos, but this time they sounded more falsetto-like.

Nina Stemme was a powerful Kundry, able to convey emotions perfectly, both in the forest acts and in the seduction of Parsifal. It is always a pleasure to listen to this soprano, and her Kundry was that of a great singer and artist, although her middle range has lost some consistency in recent years.

Bass René Pape was an excellent Gurnemanz, possibly the character who has to sing the most in the opera, although he does not appear in the second act. His vocal and stage performance were irreproachable, worthy of someone who is possibly the best interpreter of the role today.

Baritone Christian Gerhaher was superb as Amfortas, in terms both of singing and acting. His strong, healthy voice had no problems reaching throughout the opera house.

Wolfgang Koch gave life to Klingsor, and he did it with the powerful voice that one expects from him. Titurel was played by bass Bálint Szabó, who could not always be clearly heard. The two Grail Knights were handled well by Kevin Conners and Callum Thorpe, and soprano Rachel Wilson provided a good Voice from Heaven.

The Munich theatre was sold out, and there were numerous ‘Suche Karte’ signs outside. The audience showed their enthusiasm at the final bows, particularly for Kirill Petrenko and the orchestra, although the four protagonists got their share of applause as well

José M. Irurzun

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments

Comments

  1. Shirkey Moyer says:

    What a nit picker about Kaufmann and Stemme.

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Sándor Végh Memorial Concerts 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Perform Amahl and the Night Visitors in December __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Sundays for a Fiver Festival in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre Reopens in December 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! See Pop-Up Opera’s La Tragédie de Carmen this Autumn __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 and Beyond __________________________________
  • NEW! Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
 in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Sunday International Concerts Series in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! Salzburg Whitsun Festival 7 – 10 June 2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bolshoi Ballet 2018/19 UK Cinema Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018-2019 Geneva Grand Theâtre Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Hallé Season in Manchester __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! The OAE Shakes Up Concert Hall Conventions as Players and Conductors Talk from Stage __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST ANGELA HEWITT IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • R.I.P. Montserrat Caballé (1933 – 2018): A Personal Tribute by Jack Buckley __________________________________
  • NEW! The Future of Opera is Theatre: An Essay by Casey Creel __________________________________
  • NEW! Jacqui and David Morris’s New Documentary Film Nureyev Celebrates a Unique Man and Dancer __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! JACK BUCKLEY’S MEMORIES OF LINDSAY KEMP (1938-2018) __________________________________
  • NEW! THE GESUALDO SIX IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • NEW! TENOR NICHOLAS PHAN IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • NEW! THE PIANIST GEORGE HARLIONO IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR ALEXANDER SLADKOVSKY IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month