Addendum to the previous post on Parsifal: ‘a mystery play for a cryptic religion’

March 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm (Music, opera)

[Click here to read the previous Parsifal post.]


Alex Ross in the March 4 2013 New Yorker Magazine:

François Girard’s new staging of Wagner’s “Parsifal,” at the Metropolitan Opera, is nearly as inexplicable as the work itself. The Knights of the Grail, dressed in white shirts and dark pants, seem to be cultists attending a convention in a postapocalyptic desert, with rivers of blood flowing across the stage and unfamiliar planets traversing the sky. It’s bewildering but beautiful, a mystery play for a cryptic religion.

Turns out that Alex Ross, the New Yorker’s exceptionally gifted and deeply knowledgeable music critic, is at work on a book about Richard Wagner’s influence on various other artistic genres.  In October of last year, Ross told the New Yorker Festival  audience that Wagner – Art in the Shadow of Music will not be out for several years yet. Describing his subject as  ”as a limitless forest in which one goes wandering at a certain peril,” he stated that one of his goals will be to “negotiate ‘between hardcore Wagnerians and the normal people.’”

Click here to read the entire article on The Wagner Blog.

Alex Ross’s own blog is called The Rest Is Noise. (The name presumably is a riff on Hamlet’s last words: “The rest is silence.”)

Alex Ross

Alex Ross


Meanwhile – a question, and a suggestion from this decidedly non hardcore Wagnerian:

Why does Parsifal – the opera, not specifically the character – have to be so resolutely anti- sex and anti- female? I mean, in the sense that Kundry the seductress has to ‘unsexed’ (there’s that MacBeth reference again) before Parsifal (the character) can express tenderness toward  her. She seems a Mary Magdalene figure, especially as she engages in the ritual bathing of the feet of the hero. And while we’re on the subject of Christian iconography, it struck me that the Christlike function in the opera is bifurcated, with Amfortas in the role of martyr and Parsifal in that of savior.

Comments from actual Wagnerians would be most welcome at this juncture.


During his interview at the second intermission, François Girard said that one of the goals of his production was to make Parsifal relevant for a contemporary audience. I must respectfully take issue with this rationale. To my way of thinking, great art by definition is eternally relevant. It amazes me, for instance, the number of times in the course of my days that I can pull a Shakespeare quote from my memory and find that it’s exactly apt for a  modern situation.  Imperious Caesar dead and turned to clay /Might stop a hole to keep the wind away….


Finally, here is Jonas Kaufmann:

The CD Verismo Aias is even now winging its way to me from Amazon (although today’s snowstorm may delay its arrival, alas.)  Goodness, were I several decades younger, I might just fall in love….


1 Comment

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