I’m not sure I have fully recovered yet from the Met’s Parsifal. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully recover from it and its transfixing and transporting vocal, musical, and visual beauty. It’s the kind of mesmerizing power that makes you want to run off to the woods of Montsalvat and devote your life to some sort of Higher Purpose, even if by nature of being Jewish guarding a holy grail isn’t exactly the most appropriate choice.
On the other hand, though there’s a spiritual dimension to this particular Parsifal experience in all its simplicity and starkness. But it’s not necessarily a religious rite. This is Grotowski or Brecht at the opera. It’s all-encompassing and miring in its totality. One of the best nights I’ve had at the Met ever, and certainly one of the best in recent years. Jonas Kaufmann was heartbreaking in his transformation from brash angry young man to holy fool; Peter Mattei’s utter commitment to the physical breakdown of Amfortas was staggering (no pun intended). And René Pape’s Gurnemanz could start a religious following in and of itself.
What’s most affecting about this Parsifal, however, is what it creates in the individual (despite the group mentality that comes with Wagner, religion, and opera on the whole). The colors of the nebulous clouds matched my own personal synesthetic experiences of the music, and the overall effect left me nostalgic for something simpler, more innocent, and more childlike, perhaps something I never even experienced myself as a child. But it isn’t a warm nostalgia, rather it’s the realization of something missing — and emotional phantom limb syndrome. When the male chorus fall to their knees at the sight of the grail, that impetus extends into the audience. I wanted to lie in the aisle of the Met and soak the music in the way a heroin junkie will sprawl out listening to Billie Holiday. Perhaps not the effect Wagner would have gone for, but his judgment has always been a bit questionable.
(Photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)