Hosted by Eric Owens, Parsifal is the next Met Opera Live in HD transmission, originally slated for Saturday, March 2, receives an encore telecast on Wednesday, March 13 at 12:00pm at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, and in some other venues. The opera has a total running time of 330 minutes – five and a half hours. Perhaps a seemingly long afternoon at the opera, but intermission breaks it up so that the afternoon flows almost magically as Wagner spins his web of conflicts that marks all his operas.
In the Berkshires on Massachusetts the live telecast will fill the big screens at four venues: the Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the North Adams Movieplex and the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown.
Star tenor Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role in a new production of Wagner’s final masterpiece Parsifal, staged by acclaimed French Canadian director François Girard in his Met debut. The extraordinary cast of Wagnerians assembled for the deeply meditative opera about sin, redemption, pain, and healing includes German bass René Pape as the wise knight Gurnemanz; Swedish soprano Katarina Dalayman as the wayward temptress Kundry; Swedish baritone Peter Mattei as the wounded king Amfortas; and Russian bass-baritone Evgeny Nikitin as the evil wizard Klingsor. Italian maestro Daniele Gatti conducts Wagner’s powerful and complex score. American bass-baritone Eric Owens hosts the transmission and conducts backstage interviews with the stars.
French Canadian director François Girard makes his Met debut with this staging of Parsifal, a co-production of the Met, the Canadian Opera Company, and the Opéra National de Lyon, where it premiered in early 2012. Girard’s other opera productions include Kaija Saariaho’s Emilie at Lyon and the Netherlands Opera; a double bill of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms at the Edinburgh Festival and Canadian Opera Company; a double bill of Brecht and Weill’s The Lindbergh Flight and The Seven Deadly Sins in Lyon and Edinburgh; and Wagner’s Siegfried as part of a multi-director staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen at Canadian Opera Company. He has also written and directed four feature films: Cargo, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, Silk, and the Academy Award-winning historical drama The Red Violin.
Daniele Gatti made his Met debut in 1994 conducting Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and returned in 2009 to lead Verdi’s Aida. Gatti, the current Music Director of the Orchestre National de France, has led numerous important orchestras and opera companies around the world, serving as Music Director of Zurich Opera, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and Teatro Comunale di Bologna, and Principal Guest Conductor at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. He conducted Parsifal at Bayreuth every year from 2008 to 2011, and last season at Zurich Opera and the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. In August 2012, he conducted a new production of Puccini’s La Bohème at the Salzburg Festival.
In this production, Jonas Kaufmann sings Parsifal for the first time since his role debut in 2006 at Zurich Opera. It was at that time that he agreed to sing Parsifal at the Met this season. He made his Met debut in 2006 as Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata. In subsequent seasons, he has returned to star in a varied repertory, singing Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca, Don José in Bizet’s Carmen, Siegmund in the 2011 new production premiere of Wagner’s Die Walküre, and the title role in the 2011 new production premiere of Gounod’s Faust. Last season, he became the first Met artist since Luciano Pavarotti to perform a solo recital on the Met stage, with a program of lieder and art songs. He sang the title role in Wagner’s Lohengrin to open the current La Scala season; his other recent credits include Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and Bavarian State Opera; and Don José, Rodolfo in La Bohème, and Bacchus in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos at the Salzburg Festival.
Katarina Dalayman has starred in numerous Wagner performances at the Met, singing both Brangäne and Isolde in Tristan und Isolde, Sieglinde in Die Walküre, and Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. Her non-Wagner Met roles have included the Duchess of Parma in the Met premiere of Busoni’s Doktor Faust, Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck, and Lisa in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. Later this season, she will reprise her Brünnhilde in a complete Ring cycle at the Met and in Die Walküre at the Munich Festival.
Peter Mattei makes his role debut as Amfortas in this production. This will be his first Wagner role at the Met, where he has sung Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and the title role in his Don Giovanni; Figaro in the new production premiere of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia; Marcello in La Bohème; Shishkov in the Met premiere of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead; and Yeletsky in The Queen of Spades. This season, he sings Don Giovanni with the Vienna State Opera and the Bolshoi; last season, he sang that role at the Paris Opera and La Scala, and the title role in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at Vienna State Opera.
René Pape made an acclaimed Met role debut as Gurnemanz in 2003 and repeated the role in 2006. Since his 1995 Met debut as the Speaker in Die Zauberflöte, he has sung 187 Met performances in 22 roles. His extensive Met repertory includes numerous Wagner roles: Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Fasolt in Das Rheingold, King Heinrich in Lohengrin, King Marke in Tristan und Isolde, and Hunding in Die Walküre. His other recent roles at the Met include Méphistophélès in Faust, Philip II in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and the title role in the new production premiere of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Later this season, he will sing the Ring cycle’s Wotan in Das Rheingold at Berlin State Opera and Die Walküre at La Scala.
Evgeny Nikitin made his Met debut in 2002 as Lt. Dolokhov in Prokofiev’s War and Peace. His Met repertory includes Creon in Oedipus Rex, Fasolt in Das Rheingold, Colline in La Bohème, Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Orest in Strauss’s Elektra, and Rangoni in Boris Godunov, a role he sang opposite Pape in the recent new production premiere. This season, he also sings Telramund in Lohengrin at the Bavarian State Opera and Munich Festival; Amfortas in Parsifal at Zurich Opera; and Gunther in Götterdämmerung at Paris Opera.
Rúni Brattaberg, a bass from the Faroe Islands, makes his Met debut as Titurel. He performs often with National Theater Mannheim, where he has sung Fafner in Das Rheingold and Siegfried, Hunding in Die Walküre, Hagen in Götterdämmerung, King Heinrich in Lohengrin, Gurnemanz in Parsifal, Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. His other engagements this season include Philip II in Don Carlo at the State Opera in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria; the Theater Manager and the Banker in Berg’s Lulu at La Monnaie in Brussels; and Baron Ochs in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier in Cincinnati.
Scenic designer Michael Levine’s previous Met credits include Robert Carsen’s productions of Eugene Onegin and Boito’s Mefistofele, and Anthony Minghella’s staging of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Costume designer Thibault Vancraenenbroeck’s opera credits include Stéphane Braunschweig’s production of Don Carlo, which opened La Scala’s 2008-09 season. David Finn has designed lighting for numerous opera productions including the Canadian Opera Company’s recent Ring cycle and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden’s productions of Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer and Tannhauser. Peter Flaherty’s video designs for the stage include Sondheim on Sondheim for the Roundabout Theatre Company on Broadway; Girard’s production of The Flight of Lindbergh and The Seven Deadly Sins; and Chen Shi-Zheng’s My Life As a Fairy Tale at Lincoln Center Festival. Choreographer Carolyn Choa made her Met debut as associate director and choreographer for the 2006 new production of Madama Butterfly.
Synopsis – Parsifal
A forest near the castle of the brotherhood of the Holy Grail. The old knight Gurnemanz and two esquires perform their morning prayers, while other knights prepare a bath for their ailing ruler Amfortas, who suffers from an incurable wound. Suddenly Kundry appears, a mysterious, ageless woman, who serves as the Grail’s messenger. She has brought medicine for Amfortas. The king is carried in. He reflects on a prophecy that speaks of his salvation by the hands of a “pure fool, enlightened by compassion,” then is borne off. When the esquires ask about Klingsor, a sorcerer who is trying to destroy the knights of the Grail, Gurnemanz tells the story of Amfortas’s wound: the Holy Grail, the cup Christ drank from at the Last Supper, and the spear that pierced his body on the cross were given into the care of Titurel, Amfortas’s father, who assembled a company of knights to guard the relics. Klingsor, wishing to join the brotherhood, tried to overcome his sinful thoughts by castrating himself but was rejected. Seeking vengeance, he built a castle across the mountains with a magic garden full of alluring women to entrap the knights. Amfortas set out to defeat Klingsor, but was himself seduced by a “terribly beautiful woman” and stabbed by Klingsor with the holy spear, which he then took from Amfortas. The wound can only be healed by the innocent youth the prophecy has spoken of. Suddenly a swan plunges to the ground, struck dead by an arrow. The knights drag in a young man, who boasts of his archery skills. He is ashamed when Gurnemanz rebukes him, but he cannot explain his violent act or even state his name. All he remembers is his mother, Herzeleide, or “Heart’s Sorrow.” Kundry tells the youth’s history: his father died in battle and his mother reared the boy in a forest, but now she too is dead. Gurnemanz leads the nameless youth to the castle, wondering if he may be the prophecy’s fulfillment.
The knights assemble in the hall of the castle. Titurel bids Amfortas uncover the Grail to give strength to the brotherhood, but Amfortas refuses: the sight of the chalice increases his anguish. Titurel orders the esquires to proceed, and the chalice casts its glow about the hall. The nameless youth watches in astonishment but understands nothing. The ceremony ended, Gurnemanz, disappointed and angry, drives him away as an unseen voice reiterates the prophecy.
In his castle, Klingsor summons Kundry, who, under his spell, is forced to lead a double existence, to seduce the young fool. Having secured the spear, Klingsor now seeks to destroy the youth, whom he knows can save the knights of the Grail. Hoping for redemption from her torment, Kundry protests in vain.
Gurnemanz, now very old and living as a hermit near the Grail’s castle, finds the penitent Kundry exhausted in the forest. A strange knight approaches and Gurnemanz recognizes Parsifal bearing the holy spear. Parsifal describes his years of wandering, trying to find his way back to Amfortas and the Grail. Gurnemanz tells him that he has come at the right time: Amfortas, longing for death, has refused to uncover the Grail, the brotherhood is suffering, and Titurel has died. Kundry washes Parsifal’s feet, and Gurnemanz blesses him and proclaims him king. As his first task Parsifal baptizes Kundry. He is struck by the beauty of nature around them and Gurnemanz explains that this is the spell of Good Friday. The distant tolling of bells announces the funeral of Titurel, and the three make their way to the castle.
Knights carry the Grail, Amfortas on his litter, and Titurel’s coffin into the Hall of the Grail. Amfortas is unable to perform the rite. He begs the knights to kill him and thus end his anguish—when suddenly Parsifal appears. He touches Amfortas’s side with the spear and heals the wound. Uncovering the Grail, he accepts the homage of the knights as their redeemer and king and blesses them. The reunion of the Grail and spear has saved the community.