Yannick is the star of Met’s Parsifal of blood

Yannick is the star of Met’s Parsifal of blood


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2018

First review just in from ZealNY of last night’s revival of Francois Girard’s production:

Nézet-Séguin and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra stole the show tonight with a beautifully paced, languidly expansive and exquisite reading of Wagner’s Parsifal. In this orchestrally driving work, the work from conductor and musicians was sublime. The playing, across the pit, superb – tuning, ensemble, balance, tone. The brass performed magnificently despite tempos that you might hear in recording but rarely in a live performance…

Girard’s solution is clever, particularly so in Acts I and III. The ensemble slowly morphs from interesting vignette to beautiful vignette as a projected backdrop plays in real time – brooding sky, rising moon, forms that could be sand dune or human body. The result (with set design by Michael Levine and projections by Peter Flaherty) is starkly visual, architectural, and captivating.

And to this canvas, Girard pulls from his cast some impressive scene work. Gripping is Amfostas (brilliantly by Peter Mattei) as he reluctantly reveals and raises the Holy Grail, for an agonizingly long period of time, against Girard’s carefully and richly choreographed backdrop in Act I….

More here.


Evelyn Herlitzius, Klaus Florian Vogt and René Pape in ‘Parsifal’ at the Metropolitan Opera; photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

UPDATE: Second opinion here from New York Classical Review.


  • Caravaggio says:

    No, the star is Richard. Yannick is only a vehicle for the realization of the former’s genius. That said, something seemed to be missing in YN-S’ direction as it came across the airwaves, although the orchestra played splendidly. Same impression I had with his Dutchman last season. Could have been first night jitters and maybe he will gain a better grasp of the score as the run progresses. But when one compares him to the likes of Clemens Krauss, Rudolf Moralt, Hans Knappertsbusch …….

  • Sixtus says:

    I was there in the last row of the balcony. Awash in the glorious acoustics up there, the orchestra sounded superb, with the brass making each climax more powerful than the last. I finally realized, after decades with this opera, that it is Wagner’s most beautiful sonic creation.

    There were times, short-lived to be sure, when I think the stage was slightly out-of-sync with the pit. And why do the bells always go out of sync both here and at other houses when there is a simple solution: a keyboard with well-recorded bell samples played by a real musician watching the conductor. (Real backstage bells at the the pitches Wagner requires would be too massive and expensive — a problem also faced by Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique.)

    Onstage the standout was Mattei’s Amfortas followed, in order, by Nikitin, Pape, Herlitzius and Vogt. The latter’s clarion, almost virginally pure vocal quality was did not convey sufficient agony during the attempted deflowering in Act 2. And speaking of flowers, the quasi-hip-hop gestures by the chorus were very effective viewed en masse and not via a HD-video close-up. I also liked Nikitin’s proto-tutting (more hip-hop terminology).

    • Sixtus says:

      PS: Although in general I liked the video projected backdrop, what are lens flares doing in the CGI? These are such a cinema-specific device that they instantly disconnected the live performance from the backgrounds whenever they appeared. The first thing you learn in film school is that everything you do must aid the story, something the lens flares definitely did not do.


    • Sixtus says:

      PPS: Met bean counters: Even though opera glasses might sometimes help, the balcony (where I sat) and family circle sections are usually the most-filled at the Met due to their combination of superb acoustics and more reasonable pricing. But I’d estimate that both sections around me were around 25% empty, perhaps more. And the demographics of the crowd that showed up were mostly middle-age and up, very much unlike the more age-balanced audience in those sections I remember from when I moved to NYC almost 40 years ago. Not good.

      • GB says:

        No, this is totally understandable about the age demographics. I have been a Wagner fan since my teens but it took me until this 2013 production which I saw in HD to come around to this particular opera. Even now at 63 I find that last act tough to get through. Listening to the LiveStream from the Met last night was thrilling- the cast assembled for this production is tops. C’mon peeps- fill those seats- this opera is like no other.

      • Beckmesser says:

        The fact that young people do not show up for this is very understandable. I am rather young myself and quite deep into classical music. Nevertheless, this was my first Parsifal – I can firmly say that this staging was not appealing at all to first-comers despite being modern. It simply did not convey the story. If I have seen Parsifal 10 times before, I may not care. But for people who see it the first time, this is a disaster. I wanna say to the director that it is just not possible to tell the story in only 3 scenes. This is just lack of imagination on the directors part – big time. I think he loved his three scenes so much, that he forgot the story. I wanna tell him: Even in a modern stage you need to tell a story.
        To find relief from my agony, I watched the 2016 Parsifal from Bayreuth 🙂 What a big relief! The scenes are constantly changing, there is dynamics and the story is clear and logical… also the Bayreuth orchestra plays in another universe in IMHO

  • Yes Addison says:

    Wonderful. New dawn, new day.

    This is one of the very few good Wagner productions the Met has had in the last 40 years, too. The 2013 performances of it were sensational. I’m happy Girard is coming back soon with a new Dutchman.

  • tps says:

    Yannick tempi way too slow, orchestra out of sync at times, music incredible but no comparison to Thielemann. Ran 25 minutes over estimated time. Singers all good but Pape faded in last act.

    • msc says:

      Times themselves are inadequate measures of something like Parsifal: there are great performances running in time from comfortably under four hours to more than four-and-a-half. Some conductors can maintain concentration over that time, and some can’t. But the time itself is not in general a meaningful measurement.

    • Beckmesser says:

      Completely agree – music too slow and the slow-motion movements of the folks on stage made the impression of ‘no dynamics’ all the worse. Coordination between singers and orchestra was sub-par to say the least. Even in the youtube snippet posted by Met of “Die Wunde” one can hear that… no structure in the music, phrasing completely random. I loved Nezet-Seguin’s Holländer last year, but the Parsifal was not convincing…

  • David R Osborne says:

    “The topic of this piece is redemption… Redemption can be grand. And redemption can be small. Parsifal is about journey and choice”.

    But didn’t Robert Gutman say “the meaning of Parsifal is racial purity”?

    Could he have been wrong?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Gutman’s biography is fun to read, but very biassed and obviously born from a profound dislike of anything Wagner did or thought.

      Because Wagner was emotionally unbalanced and his utterances often uncontrolled, he was an easy prey for his enemies. And his abject antisemitism has always been understood as a purely racist hatred, but in fact it was a cultural critique he made the mistake of clothing it in racist terms. (This was in a pre-holocaustic time, one has to be reminded.) Was Wagner a bad person? I don’t think so.j


    • Sixtus says:

      That’s funny, even a superficial read of the libretto (and an examination of Parsifal’s post-Tristan harmonic language) tells me, if not Gutman, that the opera is, like most of Wagner’s operas, about sex. Specifically, the nexus of sexuality and sin. If there’s any ‘purity’ involved it is the all-male environments of the first and last acts, violated somewhat in the MET production. The score goes so far as to specify that the upper voices of the temple choruses are to be taken by (male) youths and boys (Jünglinge und Knaben) a performance requirement also rarely met, though you can find it on recordings (Solti on Decca, for one, with hauntingly beautiful effect). Post-Stonewall, this takes on a whole new tinge perhaps not intended by the composer, though it is far more explicit in the score than Gutman’s post-Holocaust racial purity.

      Note: It seems that some of Gutman’s Wagner book collection has recently ended up on the shelves of NYC’s Strand Bookstore. I’ve been helping myself to some of the rarities, though by now most of the really good stuff is gone.

      • David R Osborne says:

        Sixtus, I’m very glad that Gutman’s nonsense has found it’s way into the remainder bins where it belongs. From this day forth I get my analysis of Wagner the man, from Borstlap.