Vienna’s Parsifal: Thinking of Navalny

Vienna’s Parsifal: Thinking of Navalny


norman lebrecht

April 19, 2021

First reviews of Kirill Serebrennikov’s new Parsifal production at the Vienna State Opera point the spotlight at Putin’s political prisoner. The director himself is unable to leave Russia. The opera was screend last night on ORF and first reviews are appearing today.

From the Wiener Zeitung:

If one takes this “Parsifal” not as a narrative literally, but as a flood of images, it creates an enormous effect. Perhaps never before has the State Opera experienced such a cinematic, powerful physical and mentally captivating spectacle. How Amfortas, marked by self-harm, wants to open his veins due to an accusing father’s voice in her ear, is an example of this strong stuff. Poetically the doubling of the hero: the young Parsifal (actor Nikolay Sidorenko) faces the mature knight of the third act from the start, in the form of Jonas Kaufmann. With a metallic and distinctive sound, he sings the first two acts mostly on the ramp until the characters begin to see each other in a higher sense.

From opera professional Marianna Gray:

Just finished watching Act One of Serebrennikov’s new production of Parsifal in Vienna. Even based on this one act, I have to say it will stay in the annals of Parsifal productions as one of the most fascinating, insightful, gripping and psychologically intense productions, alongside such a masterpiece as Herheim’s Parsifal in Bayreuth (actually, I dare say, in its powerful intimacy and humanity, it’s just as good if not a better production). Stupendous Gesamtkunstwerk Wagner would have been proud of (even though there is a number of cultural references that might be obvious only for the Russian audience).

From opera blogger Heinrich Schramm-Schiessl:

 So now Kirill Serebrennikov let us know how he sees the work. To anticipate it right away, he either did not understand it or did not know what to do with it. Rather, he apparently processed his personal fate in his interpretation. He lets the work play in the first and third act in a prison, in the second in the editorial office of a glossy magazine. Of course, the prelude is illustrated, because ten minutes of music alone is of course not possible in today’s theater. Parsifal apparently comes back to the prison where he was incarcerated as a boy and experiences everything all over again when he is doubled by a young actor. During the foreplay, numerous prisoners come in either doing morning sports or fighting with each other. The first words of Gurnemanz “Hey! Ho!


More reviews to follow.




  • A.L. says:

    If Navalny is refused medical treatment and dies as a result, it won’t be just Putin with blood on his hands. Music-related, I am thinking of Valery Gergiev, Anna Netrebko and Denis Matsuev. The three have had ample opportunity to speak out on Navalny’s behalf but, unless I missed something, crickets. Should the outcome be his death, we can only hope that the pseudo-liberals in the West who drool all over Netrebko regardless of her politics or her poor voice and singing, will at a minimum consider self -reflection and appropriate action such as, for example, cancelling her engagements, boycotting her appearances should the gigs happen, and so on and so forth. Likewise with Gergiev and Matsuev or any others I left out.

    • Tamino says:

      Fair enough. Same standard then applies to all US-American artists who do not take a strict stance against the imprisonment and prosecution of Julian Assange.
      Or are we hypocrites?

    • JS says:

      I am sorry to say that the vast majority of Russians support Putin, i.e. they believe that this is how their country should be governed and he is doing it well. Why should they speak on behalf of Navalny, who returned to Russia completely voluntarily and knowing what awaits him? They undoubtedly think he is a fool.

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Russians in general – with the sole exception of those who openly protest or more often simply leave that hell-hole – are a fundamentally authoritarian and intolerant people. Even many of those emigres in the U.S. (and no doubt elsewhere) support the most hideous politicians and causes. Democracy and intellectual/cultural freedom are certainly NOT “in their blood”.

      • Saxon says:

        JS claims: “the vast majority of Russians support Putin…”

        The vast majority? Do they? Really? Since the political opposition are regularly wiped out, and we don’t really know how the votes are counted, and Putin himself claims only a narrow majority in each election, it is difficult to see how anyone can really believe this claim.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Most likely Netrebko and her hideous fascistic war-monger of a husband heartily APPROVE of how Navalny is being treated.

      • Hayne says:

        Mr. Phillips,
        Are you writing about Navalny who was recently stripped as a “prisoner of conscience” status by Amnesty International because of his hate speech?

  • phf655 says:

    Amfortas ‘her’ (see above)? In the curious world of Regieoper one cannot assume that the character hasn’t been turned into a woman.

  • mvarcoe says:

    In the 80s I was lucky enough to attend a series of lectures by the late great and wonderful Else Mayer-Lismann. Conversation had turned to Parsifal and she turned to me and said: “You know, Michael, in Act II of Parsifal you learn so little: it is SUCH a good time to have dinner!” Until Sunday’s new Vienna production, I totally agreed, excepting of course Wieland Wagner’s magical Bayreuth production where time AND space were suspended. I got so bored with those flouncy flower maidens. I have never been so gripped by a Wagner act (and rarely any other opera act) as I was on Sunday. I think Else M-L would have loved the ending of Act II – “good riddance, my dear!” (go there and click ARTE CONCERT) has it for 30 days from last Sunday. The Staatsoper website has another site showing it for days

    Two other Act II nuggets from her. You cannot understand the Ring without studying Act II of Die Walküre and for concentrated and exciting drama nothing beats Act II of Götterdämmerung.