Parsifal has all the intrigue of a Wagner opera

Well, friends, neighbors, and opera lovers: I got to see Rigoletto after all, and I really enjoyed it.

The Saturday of the performance at the Ramsdell I was dutifully enroute to Big Rapids for a meeting of the diocesan council. Reaching the Orchard Market south of town I knew I wasn’t going to make it, but had to go all the way to Scottville to find a safe place to turn around. What a performance: the music; the staging; the soloists-all of them beyond first class. It was truly a memorable day for those in attendance.

Some wag is now asking, what does this have to do with the upcoming production of Wagner’s, Parsifal? Nothing. It’s just difficult for me to get that excited about it.

Parsifal is the German equivalent of Percival, one of the knights of legend who were there to protect the Holy Grail of Christ’s last supper. Parsifal is a simpleton and a fool, but the legend goes that only a simpleton is pure enough to aspire to be the one, who will be entrusted to carry out this mission.

To lure him away from his mission is the seductress Kundry. She has been accursed for hundreds of years as she laughed at Christ’s crucifixion. Her task is to seduce Parsifal keeping him from his mission of protecting the grail.

So, you like your German mysticism? You want to hear an opera in German? You want to spend five and a half hours at the Ramsdell? It’s Wagner. Wagner’s operas are always long because he was such a supreme egotist that he liked to repeat his themes over and over again in case you missed them the first three times. There are people who like this stuff. They get caught up in the soaring melodic themes which repeat over and over again. Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Reichminister for Propoganda during the second world war, was one of them.

Have I ever gone to Parsifal? No. Will I Saturday? Probably not, because I have another church meeting in Traverse City. If there is another blizzard and I can’t drive there, will I walk across the street to attend. Maybe. I actually like parts of the Wagner’s Ring Cycle: Siegfried; Brunnhilde; the Valkyries. What red-blooded American male wouldn’t like the Valkyries?

To be fair the part of Parsifal is played by the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann. He is strikingly handsome, and is one of the big names in contemporary opera like Anna Netrebko, who was in the first production that we saw last October. I’m curious enough that I’ll go if there’s another blizzard.

Will I stay the full five and a half hours? Maybe. Remember, because of the extended run time, the opera begins at noon, not 12:55 p.m.


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