Wagner, Parsifal (Andris Neslons cond. CBSO, Symphony Hall)
|A British Audience gets to its feet. Own photograph.|
It is hard to imagine that a better Parsifal than Nelson’s today is possible. The CBSO took the stage as a world-class orchestra; the singers were first-rate; at Simon Halsey’s hands, the chorus ascended astonishing heights – literally in the case of those posted high up in Symphony Hall, angelic voices cascading down. In this profoundly moving moment, tears were brought to my eyes – and those of many others too. It is a measure of the emotion, however, that Fritz (Parsifal) , sitting on the stage, one felt possibly more than required, in ecstasy, wiped away tears too. I can’t recall a professional musician yielding like this. It was that beautiful.
Parsifal is not my favourite Wagner. It was my least favourite. After this performance, it has finally had the emotional power for me, which it does for many. Nelsons extracted every drop out of it, in a performance of terrifying power. On several occasions, I felt utterly overwhelmed. At the end, Nelsons held the audience silent in a way so few conductors can. I am sure I was not the only one at this point so close to losing it. What makes this different, however, from other moving operas is that it is only the music which does it: the actual story leaves me pretty cold. The utter sublime force of the music was brought to bear fully.
Burkhard Fritz (Parsifal) not only sung but acted every inch the Pure Fool, in a warm and human fashion.
Georg Zeppenfeld’s Gurnemanz was a stand-out bass with depth and range and perfect diction. You could learn German from this.
Mihoko Gujimura as Kundry produced astonishing volume and range. In her moderate frame was the voice of a lioness. She went from standing still to top speed and the halted dead again with ease.
James Rutherford as Amfortas (who sang the in the Dutchman with CBSO previously was a reliable and fine voice. There were absolutely no weak links. At times all shone: Woflgang Bani (Klingsor); Paul Whelan (Titurel); Alexander Sprauge (First Knight, 3rd Esquire); Andrew Greenan (2nd Knight); Ed Harrison (4th Esquire). The Flowermaidens sprung up and seemed very close to succeeding in wooing Parsifal (Erica Eloff, Katharina Persicke, Deborah Humble, Alexander Steiner, Bele Kumberger, Ingeborg Gillebo).
But for all the great voices on show, which each thrilled at times, this was an ensemble piece to its core. The orchestra was on fire, it didn’t put a foot wrong, as it brought each and every bar of this huge work to life. It takes a really big orchestra, a lot of singers and then huge choruses. Together, this shone and thrilled in ways scarcely imaginable. It converted me to Parsifal. I get why people are so bothered by it now – I hadn’t before. Nelsons is in the first-rank of those interpreting Wagner's music. This was a single performance. If it were being repeated anywhere, I'd look for tickets. Even Boston perhaps. You just couldn't ask for more.
Overall: a rare privilege to witness such an object-lesson in the sublime.
Andris Nelsons – Conductor
Burkhard Fritz – Tenor (Parsifal)
Georg Zeppenfeld – Bass-baritone (Gurnemanz)
James Rutherford – Baritone (Amfortas)
Mihoko Fujimura – Mezzo-soprano (Kundry)
Wolfgang Bankl – Bass (Klingsor)
Paul Whelan – Bass (Titurel)
Alexander Sprague – Tenor (First Knight / 3rd Esquire)
Andrew Greenan – Bass-baritone (Second Knight)
Edward Harrisson – Tenor (4th Esquire)
Erica Eloff – Soprano (1st Flowermaiden, Group 1)
Katharina Persicke – Soprano (2nd Flowermaiden, Group 1)
Deborah Humble – Mezzo-soprano (3rd Flowermaiden, Group 1)
Alexandra Steiner – Soprano (1st Esquire / 1st Flowermaiden, Group 2)
Bele Kumberger – Soprano (2nd Flowermaiden, Group 2)
Ingeborg Gillebo – Mezzo Soprano (3rd Flowermaiden, Group 2 / 2nd Esquire / Voice from Above)