Magazine article Opera Canada

Parsifal

Magazine article Opera Canada

Parsifal

Article excerpt

The Metropolitan Opera's 286th Parsifal (May 11) was Ben Heppner's first in the title role, and it was one of the most satisfying I have experienced. Though still inoffensively pretty in that dreamy-realistic way the Met favors for Wagner, the 1991 Otto Schenk production is showing its age. Some of the staging needs a rethink--I've never seen a droopier bunch of Flower Maidens--though there are a few well-engineered effects, such as the transformation from the forest to the temple in Act I. But even in the unremarkable setting, the strength of the musical performance made this a night to remember.

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Despite a few lapses in ensemble at the outset, the Met orchestra was in fine fettle under the direction of Peter Schneider, He's an experienced Wagnerian with a no-nonsense approach--clean detailing, a constant forward pulse and a deft way of giving the big moments their due without distorting the overall structure. The soundscape wasn't grandiose, but Schneider's pacing was dynamic and dramatically involving throughout.

The weakest point was Nikolai Putilin's somewhat coarse, barking Klingsor. The other principals, however, including bass Rene Pape (Gurnemanz), soprano Waltraud Meier (Kundry), baritone Thomas Hampson (Amfortas) and Heppner, sang with an eloquence and line that was a reminder that Wagner, for all his innovations, never lost touch with the bel canto traditions into which he was born. …

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