Friday, February 22, 2019

Victorian Opera's Parsifal illuminates the stage as a work that has further bejewelled the city’s embrace of Wagner

Published online at Herald Sun 22nd February, 2018. No print version

Melbourne had waited long for Parsifal, Wagner’s final work he described as "A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage". Victorian Opera’s season-opening production has further bejewelled the city’s embrace of Wagner. Now, in just six years, all 10 works of the Bayreuth canon have been staged in a phenomenal achievement with major contributions from Melbourne Opera and Opera Australia. 

Burkhard Fritz as Parsifal and Peter Rose as Gurnemanz
Artistic Director Richard Mills received a standing ovation. It was as much for the near 90-strong Australian Youth Orchestra who played expertly. Under Mills’ baton, Wagner’s spaciousness and contemplative signature on over 4 hours of music radiated and informed. 

Especially so did director Roger Hodgman’s non-specific modern period interpretation that brought clarity to every character and subtlety to its strong symbolic and religious overtones. 

The Medieval story concerns the wandering fool Parsifal, destined to become the saviour of the Grail Knights. Hodgman deftly turns the cogs of compassion and redemption driving it while accentuating good versus evil, where wealth is measured in spirituality. For it, Richard Roberts’ splendid fractured boxed set is spare and strikingly adapted.

After Act 1’s languid forest scene, a superb stage transformation leads into the full-thrust of ritualised drama in the Hall of the Grail. In flamboyant contrast, Act 2 shimmers in Klingsor's tempting domain – Derek Welton is as electrifying and kinetic as his wild costume. Tension erupts and harmony is restored in Act 3’s luminous ending. 

Derek Welton as Klingsor and Katarina Dalayman as Kundry
A string of fine performances, down to bit-roles too numerous, came from local and international leads. In the tile role, Burkhard Fritz’s muscled tenor became warmer and pliant as his journey developed from what was more slob than fool to commanding saviour. 

Katarina Dalayman drew a highly sympathetic Kundry - one seen as a pawn in opposing worlds - with a voice of distinctive stature and dramatic textures.

As Amfortas, James Roser was outstanding, working the text compellingly in his guilt, suffering and desperation for atonement. Veteran knight Gurnemanz’s assiduity and sincerity were smoothly combined by Peter Rose and Teddy Tahu Rhodes resonated hauntingly as Titurel. 

Kudos also to the large chorus of knights and lusty maidens. You’ll hopefully be required for more Wagner the city relishes.

Victorian Opera
Palais Theatre
Until 24th February, 2019


Production Photos: Jeff Busby

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