Tonight’s opera – Wagner’s  Parsifal at Hungarian State Opera

Tonight’s opera – Wagner’s Parsifal at Hungarian State Opera


norman lebrecht

April 15, 2022

Wagner’s Parsifal at Hungarian State Opera

Tonight Slippedisc, courtesy of OperaVision, brings András Almási-Tóth’s new production conducted by Balázs Kocsár live at its premiere on Good Friday at Hungarian State Opera. Known as the Ybl Palace after its architect, Miklós Ybl, this magnificent building reopened in March 2022 after over five years of restoration.

In his final music drama Parsifal, Wagner fashions the fear of the temptations and sinful desires into a tale of redemption. The score contrasts the sacred with the sensual, from the stark magnificence of the music for the procession to the Grail Hall in Act I to the richly orchestrated scene in which Kundry attempts to seduce Parsifal in Act II. There are sections of almost unearthly beauty such as the Act I Prologue and the closing scene of the opera, in which Parsifal reveals the Grail to the knights.  Amfortas is sung by Michele Kalmandy, Titurel by István Rácz, Gurnemanz by András Palerdi, Parsifal by István Kovácsházi, Klingsor by Károly Szemerédy and Kundry by Andrea Szántó.

The Plot:  A young man ignorant of everything, including his own name, arrives at the Kingdom of the Holy Grail. Is he the ‘pure fool, enlightened by compassion’, who, it has been prophesied, will purify the realm?

Available from  Friday 15 April  1700 CET/ 1600 London/ 1100 New York


  • John Borstlap says:

    The strangest opera of the repertoire. Wagner said about the music: ‘I wanted, for once, to express the suffering of the world’. No less. It can be heard in the prélude to the 3rd act.

    The music combines intense chromaticism – very innovative for its time and utterly original – with the most sijmple, traditional, baroque-like triadic music, including modality which is the form of tonality from pre-baroque times. And every shade in between, thus covering a range of tonalities and styles even for Wagner unprecedented. And yet, everything combines very well.

    The music influenced many composers at the time: Fauré, Debussy (who called it one of the greatest monuments erected for the glory of music), Ravel, – more French than German composers.

    The German critic and ‘enemy’ Eduard Hanslick wrote perceptively and wittily about ‘adulatory Parsifal literature’ which appeared in the media around the premiere in 1882, an avelanche of PR marketing.

    The plot has many odd turns, and the music has streches of pompous hollowness here & there, but we simply should wait until inspiration takes-off again.

    In the scene of the Flower Maidens – who do not really exist but are a type of erotic spirits – Wagner wanted to write ‘something American’ – what he imagined to be ‘American operetta’. The music inspired Debussy to his elusive arabesque idiom of his late ballet ‘Jeux’ (1912).

    A whole literature of exploration has been spilled over the question whether Kundry, the beautiful and cursed seductress, is a ‘Jewish character’ or not, but without any conclusion. The grail bunch is a silly lot with totalitarian leanings, and Amfortas’ wailing is torture in itself, but he is healed in the end, which is a great relief.

    All in all, a dreamlike opera with hypnotic music, both forward- and backward-looking, a synthesis of 19C romanticism, and an artistic achievement unimaginable in our own times, which are so empty and meaningless and materialist.

  • John Borstlap says:

    With great difficulty I tried to get through the 1st act but gave-up after the Verwandlungsmusik. The staging is the usual ‘modern” interpretation, with so many things wrong, one would not know where to begin – entirely unwatchable. The list would be very boring so I refrain.

    • V. Lind says:

      Thanks for the heads-up. I may seek another online version, or else mark Good Friday with the St. Matthew Passion. I don’t fancy a “modern” Parsifal.

    • Fernando says:

      You are right. I was so sad when I started watching. On my soul I keep those glorious Budapest’ Parsifals 20 years ago, when they had so small money and the decadent maffia didn’t even bothered looking to Budapest. It was so, so, so great!

    • Peter San Diego says:

      How were the musical elements of the production? I’ve never heard the work of either the conductor or singers.

  • John Borstlap says:

    This is a much better production – without distorting interventions from einem hirnverbrannter Regisseur:

    Also, with a Gurnemanz with a normal vibrato, and not one over the interval of almost a third. For this role a singer is needed with a good pair of shoes (he has a long part to sing) and a supple, lyric voice which does not irritate on the ears.