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Time for another mash-up of SNLC with the opera diary series begun by Demi Moaned, and since continued by self, in light of the latest live Metropolitan Opera HD-movie cast today.  With that in mind, today's variation on the standard opener:

Anyone see the Metropolitan Opera HD-cast of Parsifal today?

Given that 2013 is the anniversary year of 3 of opera's major composers, Verdi, Wagner, and Britten, it's fitting that Wagner's last opera would feature in the Met's repertory this season.  Parsifal is a very tricky work to stage, however, given the rather ritualistic nature, not to mention stately pace, of much of the story.  Given that with 2 intermissions, the whole show can potentially run nearly 6 hours, it's understandable if your answer to the above question is "no" (but hence the poll).  Spamalot this isn't.  The reason for the snarky reference to Monty Python, amongst other stuff, follows 'neath the flip....

First, so everyone is up to speed on the plot, you can read the Met Opera's synopsis here, or the wikipedia article.  You now see the reference to Spamalot, since the Holy Grail features in the plot of Parsifal.  The other connection to the King Arthur legend is in the etymology of the name Parsifal, which can be considered a rough equivalent to Percival (or Perceval) in the Anglo version of the tales of the Knights of the Round Table.

In her NYT preview article on the new Met production, the splendiferously named Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim (you couldn't invent a name like that if you tried - at least I couldn't) notes by way of introduction to the opera for the novice:

"Parsifal, first performed in 1882, is Wagner's final work for the stage: in equal parts, fairy tale, ritual and philosophical testament. He wrote the manuscript in purple ink and termed the work a Bühnenweihspiel, a festival for the consecration of the stage."
The full German term that CdF-W meant is Bühnenweihfestspiel, just for the record.  That aside, she also notes:
"The opera's themes of reincarnation, renunciation and enlightenment through compassion are evidence, [director François] Girard said, of Wagner's fascination with Buddhism. Wagner was introduced to Eastern forms of spirituality through the writings of Schopenhauer, and the Buddhist ideal of renunciation in particular comes through in letters to Wagner’s muse, Mathilde Wesendonck, and in the diaries of his wife, Cosima."
One other theme that some have seen in the opera, in the light of Wagner's own personal prejudices, is anti-Semitism, such as summarized in passing by Jan Swafford in his biography of Johannes Brahms, regarding the conductor Hermann Levi:
"After a growing professional and personal closeness with Wagner during the 1870's, in 1883 Levi became the anointed conductor for the premiere of Parsifal - an opera that was, among its qualities for good and ill, perhaps the highest expression in art of pseudo-spiritualized Germanic antisemitism."

Citation:  Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms: A Biography, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, pp. 387-388 (1998)

While I don't claim anywhere near the expertise to give anything resembling a full or even 1/4-full discussion of this statement, it's not a new idea, as the wikipedia article indicates, given Wagner's own raving anti-Semitism throughout his life.  In brief, one can try to postulate the sorcerer Klingsor, the opera's bad guy who stabbed the knight Gurnemanz with the spear that had pierced Christ on the cross, and thus gave Gurnemanz the wound that has not since healed, in the opera's backstory, as an 'impure' character who was rejected from fellowship with the Grail knights.  Parsifal, by contrast, is the 'pure' character who redeems all, not just psychologically pure in the sense of being a total naif and innocent, but also in the Germanic "golden boy" sense of 'purity'.

Girard's production apparently tries to avoid such racial concerns by giving the opera a setting more informed apparently by pressing environmental matters, again per CdF-W's article:

"In his vision Parsifal is set in a postapocalyptic world made barren by global warming. The sets by Michael Levine, [tenor Jonas] Kaufmann said, 'look exactly like those images you see from Africa where it hasn’t rained in many years and there are cracks in the surface of the earth.'"
In his NYT review of this production, Anthony Tommasini elaborates on this idea with details about the sets:
"There is not one tree or tuft of grass, not even a patch of moss. Instead two barren, sun-baked, dirt-gray mounds are divided by a river bed with just a trickle of flowing water, sometimes thick with blood. In the background videos depict dark clouds, swirling mists, and, sometimes, cosmic images of strange solar systems and ominous planets."
The production also puts the Grail knights in business suits, to emphasize the "modern" feel.

With all that, obviously everything really rises or falls from the music.  Happily, no worries on any account there.  All the singers do a terrific job, with the principal roles as follows:

* Jonas Kaufmann - Parsifal
* Katarina Dalayman - Kundry
* Peter Mattei - Amfortas
* Evgeny Nikitin - Klingsor
* René Pape - Gurnemanz

Although you'd think that Jonas Kaufmann as Parsifal would be the vocal center of the story, because of the opera's title, if I had to give the palm to just one singer among the leads, it would have to be René Pape as Gurnemanz.  He has tremendous stage charisma along with a great voice, not to mention the kind of satanic magisterial looks that makes him perfect typecasting for a role like Mephistopheles in Faust.  Here, however, as Gurnemanz, no devil he here, but instead he's the rock of conscience and nobility among the Grail knights.

Kaufmann himself does a very fine job as the holy fool Parsifal, in solid voice (and one or two opera beefcake moments for the ladies on stage in Act II [not to mention gay men in the opera crowd, but never mind]).  In fact, it only occurred to me that the Monty Python parallel applies in Act II of Parsifal, since you can regard the Flower Maidens trying to seduce Parsifal from his quest for the holy spear as parallel to the Castle Anthrax scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  However, Parsifal isn't meant to be funny, of course.

It was also amusing to learn in the intermission features, from host Eric Owens and a supervisor of the Met's stage staff, about how the stage crew managed pools of stage blood (water, food grade glycerin, and food coloring, in case you're wondering).  Namely, there are heating units that pre-heat the "blood" to 105 deg F before Act II starts, and there are also heating pads that try to mitigate the dissipation of the heat as Act II proceeds.  But you also have to remember that all this water, suitably protected, is on top of a lot of electrical stuff.  You don't want to imagine what might go down if some sort of leak occurred.

Underpinning it all, of course, is the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in the pit, with conductor Daniele Gatti, actually using a chair (he's only in his 50's - but then Act I is almost 2 hours long, but 3CM digresses, as usual), but more importantly, conducting the opera from memory, as there was no score on his stand.  I was kind of surprised that he consented to do a quick chat with Eric Owens, since Gatti strikes me as an ultra-serious type, not one for media-schmoozing.  For example, when he took his entrances in the pit, he smiled to the orchestra, but adopted a more neutral, non-smiley, look for the audience, simply nodding in acknowledgement.  This didn't prevent him from getting a huge cheer at the end from the audience.  You could also see several string players waving their bows as he made his entrance, a traditional gesture of appreciation for the conductor.

Director François Girard was also on hand to do a quick intermission chat, and to take a bow at the end of the performance.  Given that this is the only performance of Parsifal that I've "seen", it worked well enough, again especially given the difficulties of staging such a slow-paced (except the 1st part of Act II) and philosophically oblique work.  Tommasini commented in his review that this particular production really struck him as a "downer", given the subtext of "environmental desolation" and the barren nature of the sets.

One thing about seeing this production in a movie house (or any of the Met HD-casts), where by definition your perspective is limited to what the HD-director chooses via her camera operators, is that perhaps the up-closeness of the camera mitigates the downer-ness of this production a bit, by focusing attention on the individual singers, rather than just the big wide perspective of the whole stage.  Thus you can see little up-close details like Pape trying to warm Dalayman's hands at the start of Act III to wake her up one more time, which wouldn't register in the house from a seat in the upper balcony.  Of course, the best movie house sound in the world is no substitute for hearing the singers and orchestra in the same physical space.  It's always a trade-off.

So overall, a long afternoon at the movies, but one well spent.  I don't know if I'll be inspired to see a truly live production of Parsifal at some point, especially as I would have to travel to do so (it can never be done locally), but who knows.  With that, as this is another mash-up diary, you can either:

(a) chit-chat about the opera, or
(b) observe the usual SNLC protocol.

Or you can do both, as always.  We're not proud here :) .

PS: If you have a lot of time on your hands and can read German, not to mention being willing to deal with a lack of English subtitles, then....

Act I, from Bayreuth (2012):

Act II, from Bayreuth (2012):

Act III, from Bayreuth (2012):

Or if you can deal with Dutch subtitles:

Act I, from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (2010):

Act II, from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (2010):

Act III, from the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (2010):

Originally posted to chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 04:20 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

Poll

Did you see the Met HD-cast of Parsifal today?

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Comment Preferences

  •  have to run out soon (13+ / 0-)

    Will hopefully be back in a few hours, so if anyone else wants to diary-sit in my absence, please feel free.

    So, loser story from here, a fairly modest one; had bought some yogurt on sale last week.  Looked at one of them this week, and saw that it was a flavor that I normally wouldn't ever buy (Boston cream pie).  Not worth taking back, so of course I consumed it.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 04:20:18 PM PST

  •  Just the usual with me (10+ / 0-)

    We left the cave on Monday for a grandbaby's birthday and some shopping and had fun before the snow came on Tuesday night.

    We got about 8 inches of heavy stuff, but we are on a paved road so we got plowed out pretty fast.

    Now, it is March and we see the light staying longer and hubby has ordered his garden seeds so we are thinking spring.

    Even hibernating bears are getting a bit of cabin fever, I think.  :)

    Best wishes to all here!!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 05:11:59 PM PST

    •  yup, for round 2 of snow last Thursday..... (8+ / 0-)

      .....not so bad, barely any accumulation worth mentioning, though enough to warrant mild scraping of frozen H2O off of car windows.  There's still some residual packed snow on the street edges from the recent big one, though.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:06:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Garden seeds, eh? (6+ / 0-)

      I'm still checking my cherry tomatoes (thank you, global warming!) for fruit, but nothing yet.  Lots of flowers, though, and 80+ temps today and tomorrow, so we'll see.  

      I wonder how early I can get them.  I want to set a personal best record.

      •  Guess that is something we can look forward to (6+ / 0-)

        with climate change. Let my broccoli just leaf out this year. Damn things didn't make decent heads at all and what I did harvest was full of little bugs. bleahh. Yeah, protein and all but yuck and I washed and washed and still could not convince myself.

        if a habitat is flooded, the improvement for target fishes increases by an infinite percentage...because a habitat suitability index that is even a tiny fraction of 1 is still infinitely higher than zero, which is the suitability of dry land to fishes.

        by mrsgoo on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 11:36:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's why I don't bother with broccoli (4+ / 0-)

          and (especially) brussel sprouts.  Bugs get in all the cracks and crevices and don't get washed away.  Just one in a salad is enough to ruin your appetite for the rest of the crop

          Maybe it's dumb, but I'd rather eat frozen broccoli and sprouts.

          I didn't have that much trouble with lettuce.  I used to grow lettuce but haven't in years.  When lettuce has problems, it attracts little green caterpillars.  They are easier to take care of.  You just use some organic spray.  Better still, cut back on the nitrogen a little.  

          If you get the urge to grow lettuce, let me recommend, if you like red leaf, that you grow Vulcan.  That was my favorite of all the red leaf varieties I tried.  It's very beautiful, too.

        •  interesting, since I buy broccoli regularly..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mrsgoo

          .....at the local farmer's market, and no creepy crawlies that I've seen yet in years of purchases there.  Of course, it gets all processed, as opposed to you getting it directly from your own garden.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 09:56:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  No, + as Bostonians say, likely, nevah.... (6+ / 0-)

    I couda'have. I have seen a Reingold and Gotterdammerung, so I have made my peace with Wagner's ideological history and the uses made of his operas. But Parsifal is too much of that ideology in too much opera.

    "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

    by BlueStateRedhead on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:31:29 PM PST

    •  Girard didn't say so in his spiel, but I wonder... (5+ / 0-)

      .....if he did deliberately try to spread the religious net wider than a relatively narrow Christian-centric view, with full knowledge of Wagner's odious attitudes.  Certainly Buddhist ideas can be incorporated, for example.  Not that I'm expert enough in religions to be able to discuss cross-fertilization intelligently, of course.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:08:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wagner took a lot of flack at the time (3+ / 0-)

        from friends for making Parsifal too CHRISTIAN.  The Germanic race blood revival thing going on at the time had a strong anti-Christian element to it, and the pagan themes of The Ring were admired; Parsifal, not so much.  Some of Wagner's followers saw Parsifal as a betrayal.

        •  didn't that include..... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo, RiveroftheWest

          ......"Nietzsche contra Wagner"?  Something I've heard about, but not read.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 10:29:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Nietzsche wrote three books about Wagner (3+ / 0-)

            Birth of Tragedy Through Music, his first book, which was pro-Wagner.  He was personal friends with Wagner at that time.

            Two others opposing him: The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche Contra Wagner.

            He also mocked him with the title of his book Twilight of the Idols.  (Götzen-Dämmerung.)

            He mocked both Wagner's politics and his music and the whole nationalism movement.  He also steeped enormous praise on Jews and Judaism and suggested that he preferred Judaism over Christianity (without endorsing both) because it was less weak and feminine.  When he made these comments though, there was an obvious tweaking of the nose intended at Wagner and his allies, who were writing crap about him back.

            I read Nietzsche as a teenager, so I knew more about Wagner through Nietzsche than I did through his actual music before I started collecting LPs.

            None of that is what makes Nietzsche interesting though.  

            Hmmm... Found this passage in wiki:

            Christian pity

            Christianity, as a religion of peace, is despised by Nietzsche. Pity leads to depression, loss of vitality and strength, and is harmful to life. Pity also preserves that which should naturally be destroyed. For a noble morality, pity is a weakness, but for Christianity, it is a virtue. In Schopenhauer's philosophy, which was the most nihilistic and opposed to life, pity is the highest virtue of all. But, for Nietzsche, pity "... multiplies misery and conserves all that is miserable, and is thus a prime instrument of the advancement of decadence: pity persuades men to nothingness! Of course, one does not say 'nothingness.' One says 'the Beyond' or 'God' or ' true life' or 'Nirvana,' 'salvation,' 'redemption,' 'blessedness.' ... Schopenhauer was hostile to life: therefore pity became a virtue for him."[13] The moderns Leo Tolstoy and Richard Wagner adopted Schopenhauer's viewpoint. Aristotle, on the other hand, recognized the unhealthiness of pity and prescribed tragedy as a purgative. "In our whole unhealthy modernity there is nothing more unhealthy than Christian pity."[13]

            That was one of his later books, The Antichrist.  We can see more nose-tweaking there.  But that pretty much goes to the heart of his philosophy, which saw modern morality as not evil but just stupid and destructive and -- this isn't his word but it might be closer to what he intended -- outmoded.  There's a visionary element to Nietzsche, where he doesn't really advocate anything at all, but just suggests some new kind of morality is just around the corner, and the Ubermensch (from Zarathustra) would be its herald.  

            Funny how much of this ultimately became mixed together with Wagner's nationalism in a polyglot by the Nazis.  I think it's safe to say Nietzsche would have been horrified by the Nazis, but all this talk of strength and no pity and ubermensches was incorporated into their philosophy.

            •  I don't think Parsifal is anti-semetic at all. (3+ / 0-)

              The Jew in Parsifal is Kundry and the villain is the ex- Grail knight Klingsor. Kundry collapses and dies in the final scene after spending the whole third act in the midst of the Grail-knights where Parsifal becomes king of the knights and there are no Nazis-types standing around saying Juden raus.
              Perhaps Alberich in the Ring is the closest to a Jewish type
              villain but otherwise I don't see any coming close. Merchant of Venice is actually much worse.

              I also don't agree about Wagner being an anti-semite the way Nietzsche's brother-in-law Foster was.

              Judaism in Music is from 1850 when a bitter ruined Wagner was on the run from the German police after the Revolution of 1848. That book predates the Aryan racial pseudoscience of de Gobineau and H. S. Chamberlain which is the real basis of Nazism.

              By 1880 antisemitism was a popular political movement
              and later Elizabeth Foster-Nietszche used her brother's books to give cover to the new antisemites.

              No genuine anti-semite would have had a lifelong friendship with Hermann Levi son of a rabbi or permitted him to perform at Bayreuth.

              •  Nietzsche had a troubled relationship (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                chingchongchinaman

                with his sister because of Foster.  That's an interesting situation.  At one point, as I recall, she left Germany with Foster to create some kind of Aryan utopia in South America, but that collapsed and they had to return to Germany.

                I'm not that impressed with Wagner's relationship with Levi.  "See, I'm not a racist!  I have a friend who's a Jew!"  Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and Wagner's mind wasn't that small.  Apparently that relationship wasn't based on reaching out a loving hand to the Jews but on other matters.

                The history of Aryan racial pseudo-science (not anti-semitism) has deeper roots, going back to philology.  This might be something you know, but if not, it should be interesting.

                Philology, Racism and Aryanism

                The discipline of philology entered a new phase after Sir William Jones announced his discovery in 1786, of the ancient mother tongue that originated both the Indian and the European languages. This ancient mother tongue was later referred to as Proto-Indo-European. Jones’ discovery1 initiated the revaluation of all languages, both living and dead, to reassert their historical and prehistorical connections...
                The early philologists thought that they could trace the journey of the German race using the similarities of language in a trail leading back to India.  In this theory, an ancient race of people known as the Aryans were the forefathers of the Germanic people who migrated north and west.
                Inscriptions of a Sanskrit-type language found in Germany were deemed to be the oldest in Europe and led many German philologists to conclude that Proto-Indo-European had entered Europe via the German plane, which in turn was used to create the theory that the Teutonic peoples were direct descendents of the Aryans, otherwise known as Aryanism...
                Cool, eh?  This is one of the reasons Himmler became so focused on Asian antiquities.  He wanted to find evidence to support this and a snowballing pseudo-science that had grown around this Aryan connection.

                The way all this began to snowball together during the 19th century (and well before Wagner even knew what a Jew was) is fascinating stuff, in a kind of Da Vinci Code way.  Philology became serious academia.  By coincidence, maybe, Nietzsche's own phD was in classical philology and he was chair of the philology department at Basel before wandered off into his unique poetry headspace.

                Interesting, from Wiki, under the heading of Classics:

                Philology
                Further information: Philology
                For the journal, see Classical Philology (journal).

                There is a surviving tradition of Latin philology in Western culture connecting the Roman Empire with the Early Modern period.[3] The philology of Greek survived in the Byzantine Empire until the fall of Constantinople, and was re-introduced in Western Europe in the Renaissance.

                Classical philology was a major preoccupation of the 19th-century German[clarification needed] education system, which became "the paradigm for higher education" throughout Western culture.[dubious – discuss]

                Although less dominant than it used to be, philology retains a central role in classical studies.[4]So the groundwork for the pseudo-science was already established and growing before Wagner started publishing his screeds.  What he brought new to it was a kind romantic spiritualism of a mythical German past.

                Politically, though, aside from his nationalism and racism, he was a democrat, small D, so we have to give him credit for that.

                •  don't know all the details of the Nietzsche..... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Dumbo

                  .....family history, but my understanding is that Elisabeth, FN's sister, was responsible through her own racism of the taint that attached to her brother's philosophical writings, after his death.

                  "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                  by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:15:49 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Feh. I blame Nietzsche for that. (0+ / 0-)

                    His language was over the top and macho sounding for stylistic reasons, and that created its own appeal to reinterpret it.  His sister wasn't the problem.  

                    I'm not into Nietzsche.  I'm just kind of pleased and amused that my reading in all that ever became useful.

                    The one good thing I took from Nietzsche was the idea that there was no correct moral system, and that all moral systems are just reflective of the culture they exist in.  Everything else he wrote about was pretty much bullshit.  He tried to apply Darwin's ideas of evolution, survival of the fittest, to the morality of cultures, the same way Marx was doing it with economics and the same way Schoenberg was clumsily trying to apply it to music.  

                    Remember that old BBC show, Upstairs, Downstairs?  About the upper class family that lives upstairs, and all the domestic servants downstairs, and the two groups have totally different communal lives that rarely intersect?  Nietzsche proposed that the morals of the downstairs people, what he would call slave morality, tended to be different from the morality of the masters.  Aristocracies place value on things like pride, fulfilling social obligations, justice, mercy, etc.  Those in the lower strata, though, place value on humility, not rocking the boat, generosity and sharing.

                    Now, how do you reconcile those to get some combo one-size-fits-all moral system?  You can't.  You can't reconcile the virtue of humility and the virtue of pride.  Western morailty, however, is an inconsistent mash-up of the two, and the inconsistencies cause problems.  

                    So how is this useful?

                    Well, consider for a moment, you were going to write a scifi novel where the only food you could eat was a sentient creature like you and me.  Say you're a vampire, for example, or an alien tiger species.  In that kind of situation, what kind of moral system would develop?  

                    You and I might agree that it's horrid to think of eating sentient creatures on a regular basis to survive, but what if you grew up in a culture where that's the norm, where anytime anybody suggested it might be wrong, that somebody pointed out, yup, oh well, that's life?  The entire moral system that developed in such a situation would be very different from ours, and it might even be perfectly consistent, but just different in an abhorrent way.

                    Likewise, think about somebody like Mitt Romney, addressing that room of donors, talking about the 47%.  He was speaking from the heart, dude, every bit as much as a world of vampires would be baffled by why humans wouldn't vote for vampires.  "47% of the planet is human, and we'll never get their vote.  They're so used to their not being eaten and getting free meals from corn and wheat that we'll never reach them!"

                    •  no, actually, his sister was the problem..... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Dumbo

                      .....or at least a problem.  The fact of her last name would seem to have lent credence by proxy to her racist ideas, and how she exploited her brother's writings.

                      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                      by chingchongchinaman on Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 08:06:15 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

              •  catch with..... (0+ / 0-)

                .....Judiasm in Music is that Wagner had it reprinted later in life, i.e. he basically doubled down on what he wrote.  In addition, Swafford quotes Peter Gay's characterization of Levi as "Richard Wagner's favorite conductor and Jewish whipping boy".  Swafford also says that Wagner "could not help taunting his disciple with antisemitic gibes".  Levi evidently made excuses to his father on Wagner's behalf.

                My understanding is also that Cosima Wagner was a lot worse than her husband with respect to being a raving anti-Semite, which is saying something.

                "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:14:39 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Antisemitism grew as a political movement long (0+ / 0-)

                  after Judaism in Music was written, especially in France culminating in the Dreyfus trial. It wasn't endorsed in Germany at all. I think Bismarck referred to the Jews as
                  the champaign of Germany. Wagner was extremely overbearing and egotistical, for example he stole his second wife from his conductor and supporter von Bulow and republished just about everything he ever did. He told Schumann how to write his operas and I think he had Brahms copy out Rheingold as a favor. Bruckner always addressed him as the Master.
                  What I am saying is that Wagner's anti-semitism was
                  not much more than garden variety prejudice and a reflection of his personality, not the paranoia of the true anti-semite. I don't think bigotry alone leads to such a mass psychosis but conspiracy theories, pseudoscience,
                  and fanaticism do (of which there is an abundance these days).  

            •  have actually read FN's..... (0+ / 0-)

              ......Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ, since they were conveniently in a single paperback Penguin volume.  Can't claim to have grasped them, though, but the book is still on my shelf if I ever want to thumb through it again.

              "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

              by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 09:58:17 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't see any Buddhist influences. (2+ / 0-)

        In fact, I was stunned by the Christianity so important to the libretto.

  •  Has anyone seen Met's Don Carlos? (6+ / 0-)

    Going to be in NYC next Sat. Anyone know/seen this production? Worth the effort? For a novice?

    Conductor: Lorin Maazel
    Elisabeth de Valois: Barbara Frittoli
    Eboli: Anna Smirnova
    Don Carlo: Ramón Vargas
    Rodrigo: Dmitri Hvorostovsky
    Philip II: Ferruccio Furlanetto
    Grand Inquisitor: Eric Halfvarson

    "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

    by BlueStateRedhead on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:41:31 PM PST

  •  Corinna daF-W's lovelife: re Wagner antisemitism (4+ / 0-)

    3C, I don't think you could make this up. I don't even think a Verdi librettist could have made it up. And it would drive Wagner bonkers. Which is a good thing in my book.

    Corinna's can't make it up musical religious lovelife lost

    "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

    by BlueStateRedhead on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 08:53:08 PM PST

    •  hmm, wonder if CdF-W leans..... (4+ / 0-)

      ......Reform.  It would seem an obvious question, but one never knows, especially someone like me.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:20:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sounds like done in US, mikveh used. no expert... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chingchongchinaman

        ...though. Tractatus google knows, but I am too busy trying to figure out if I try Don Carlos live or not from the comments and further research.

        Happy you got a Wagnerian happy ending to your Diary. I was afraid that your five hours this Sat. would be next Sat.'s loser's club story.

        "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

        by BlueStateRedhead on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 09:20:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Heh heh... (4+ / 0-)

      When she talks about "the grip" that the Orthodox have on immigration, what she means is that for purely political reasons, the Orthodox have managed to make themselves the final arbiter of what constitutes a converted Jew or not.  So if you convert to Judaism in the US as Conservative or Reform, you're a Jew to everybody else in the world, but not to the Orthodox Jews at Israel immigration.

      Curiously enough, this rule would seem to have the effect of keeping their voting numbers from being swamped with non-Orthodox.  Couldn't be a connection, do you think?  It couldn't be like a Ken Blackwell Ohio voting type thing, could it?  Naw...

  •  Parsifal made one convert (8+ / 0-)

    A friend emailed:
     

    I went wtih lots of ambivalence and a sense that I would leave after one act. But I loved it. Glued to my seat as the cliche goes.

    "Are you bluish? You don't look bluish," attributed to poet Roger Joseph McGough, for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968).

    by BlueStateRedhead on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:00:41 PM PST

    •  I liked it (5+ / 0-)

      Not as much as the Ring but still, it was good.  If long.

      This performance made me wonder what makes people see the opera as anti-Semitic.  Makes much more sense as Wagner's attempt to integrate Buddhism with Christianity.  The singing was fabulous, but the set for Act I and III was a little dreary.  I agree the close-ups in the Live in HD does mitigate the dreariness of the Act I-III set.  Act III looks like the latter stages of global warming.  But the singing was great.

      The scientific uncertainty doesn't mean that climate change isn't actually happening.

      by Mimikatz on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:23:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  without delving into the details via..... (4+ / 0-)

        ......teh Google, on the surface, I suspect that the portrayal of Klingsor as some sort of "impure" outsider, not worthy of the Grail, is the starting point for characterizing the opera as underground anti-Semitic.  This contrasts with the "pure" fool Parsifal.

        From reading the NYT articles and seeing the sets close-up, your description of "the latter stages of global warming" seems quite apt.

        "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

        by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:36:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  your friend stayed past Act I? Wow, especially... (5+ / 0-)

      .....because Act I is almost 2 hours long.  But then so is Act III of Die Meistersinger, which is definitely a smarmier illustration of Wagner's mean-spiritedness in its depiction of Beckmesser (even if I know of people in real life who are Beckmesser-ish, and aren't Jewish or half-Jewish, as Eduard Hanslick, the critic Wagner ridiculed as Beckmesser, was).

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:24:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The full Parsifal monty (8+ / 0-)

    Thanks for posting this diary. I had more than half intended to return to my old haunt and write a diary on this topic myself.

    But even though I'm on the West Coast, it was almost 4 pm by the time I got home and I had several other things to attend to and I knew it would take me several hours to write everything I wanted to say including appropriate links.

    I have to say that though I'm a devoted Wagnerian and feel I completely get the other 9 mature operas, I've been struggling for more than forty years to completely wrap my mind around Parsifal. I think I finally got there today.

    The difficult part for me was always the second act. I always found the role of Kundry a bit grating.

    Anyway this was a superb performance, IMO. Every one sang beautifully. I had been worried about the state of René Pape's voice based on a bit of what I had heard on the radio. But he was fine in Act I and gave me everything I wanted in Act III.

    And Peter Mattei was a revelation as Amfortas. It's his first Wagner role, but beautifully sung and with great intensity. Kaufmann has a splendid voice and phrases beautifully. And Dalayman was deeply affecting as Kundry.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:22:32 PM PST

  •  RIP William Bennett (4+ / 0-)

    The San Francisco music community was deeply saddened by the death on Thursday of William Bennett, principal oboe of the San Francisco Symphony. He collapsed onstage after completing the opening passage of Strauss's Oboe Concerto last Saturday night. It was a cerebral hemorrhage. He died on Thursday.

    Here's Josh Kosman's heartfelt tribute.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 09:57:11 PM PST

    •  I saw that news (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Demi Moaned, RiveroftheWest

      Horrible what happened to WB, although in a morbidly poignant way, you could say that he went out with his boots on.  You weren't at any of those concerts, were you?  Obviously the earlier ones prior to his collapse went OK.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 02, 2013 at 10:27:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, and I hadn't heard about it until ... (3+ / 0-)

        I was dining with some friends on Wednesday evening. They had been at the Saturday concert when the collapse occurred. At that time we had no news on his condition. Only the following morning did he die.

        "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

        by Demi Moaned on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 07:18:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  your message got cut off a bit; that aside..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Demi Moaned

          ......it's been a horrible recent period for classical music, with the loss of so many great people, like Wolfgang Sawallisch and Marie-Claire Alain.  It's horrible and morbid to wonder involuntarily "who's next?".

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:48:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  WADR, I don't quite consider ... (0+ / 0-)

            Wolfgang Sawallisch to have been a great conductor. He worked hard and had a prominent career, but I never heard him do anything I considered brilliant.

            "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

            by Demi Moaned on Mon Mar 04, 2013 at 11:00:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  at least one person disagrees with you, namely.... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Demi Moaned

              .....Inquirer music critic Peter Dobrin, such as here.  FWIW, Dobrin ran Christoph Eschenbach out of town with nearly 5 years of hostile reviews of CE's concerts as music director in Philly.

              "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

              by chingchongchinaman on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 03:49:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm much more interested in your own opinion (0+ / 0-)

                I heard Sawallisch a number of times when I lived in Germany and he occasionally conducted in San Francisco. The work was good enough, but I was never moved to the point of seeking out an event because he was conducting.

                "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

                by Demi Moaned on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 06:54:42 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I only heard Sawallisch live once (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Demi Moaned

                  It was a concert performance of Ariadne auf Naxos in Philly, funnily enough, since this is nominally an opera thread.  It was a very good performance, but then Sawallisch was always good in the music of Richard Strauss, from general reputation.  

                  "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                  by chingchongchinaman on Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 08:04:19 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  Martin Bernheimer's review: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chingchongchinaman
    •  MB does really seem to have it in for..... (0+ / 0-)

      .....the Met's conductors, Fabio Luisi in particular, seemingly for simply not being James Levine.  Even when he praises Daniele Gatti, he says that the orchestra sounds almost like 'teh good old days'.  I exaggerate, but you get the point.

      Granted, I don't particularly think that Luisi is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he's all right, and at least he's shouldering a pretty hefty burden, perhaps to excess, but at least he's willing to do it.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:31:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  No but we are seeing Spamalot tomorrow. (2+ / 0-)

    At the Assembly Hall in Champaign, a horrible venue for music but less than a mile from home, what the hell.  I find "Grail lore" fascinating and love Wagner's music but would really have a hard time sitting through a 4.5 hour production of damn near anything. Parsival is in my i tunes file and I did actually listen to it this week while at work.

    "Remember, Republican economic policies quadrupled the debt before I took office and doubled it after I left. We simply can't afford to double-down on trickle-down." Bill Clinton

    by irate on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 05:25:56 AM PST

    •  I've seen one concert at the..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      irate

      .....Krannert Center at UIUC, but that's it, Foellinger Great Hall.  Nice space for a mid-size orchestra, but I imagine a full symphony might be a bit much.  I know that they do get touring orchestras, and the Chicago Symphony stops by once in a while.

      With Parsifal, at least there are 2 intermissions to give you a chance to decompress.  After Act I, it was just over 30 minutes, which is OK given the length of Act I.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:33:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jesse L. Weston Ritual to Romance (2+ / 0-)

    It's the oldest of the old readings of Parsifal/Percival, and it sounds like the Met is taking her reading to heart. Given what a mishmash Wagner was, Weston's Jungian/anthopological reading is fine.

    I.e. it is the Fisher King, and he has been wounded, and the knight must face the chapel perilous to ask the question of "who does the grail serve" to restore the king, which will make the land bloom again. It is, according to Weston, an Adonis myth and an Osiris myth that gets repeated over and over again.

    The Oxbridge lads in Python studied with Bruce Mitchell. They knew their grail (and it's why all Australians are named Bruce, I think) (see Terry Jones's serious book on the middle ages which might not be the best scholarly thing, but it's not nothing).

    Everyone is innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 06:02:10 AM PST

    •  hence also, presumably, the...... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Geogre

      ......Australian Philosopher's Sketch.  The one time that I saw it done live, to accomodate the female who was part of the touring company with Eric Idle's "Greedy Bastard Tour", one of the Bruces became Brucealine, if that's how one spells it (maybe Brucaline).

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:34:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I did see it on 3/2, and was wondering: At the (2+ / 0-)

    very end, Parsifal holds up the Grail and everyone is looking at it--except Amfortas, who's almost looking 180 degrees away. Any thoughts on that interpretation? He has been healed and forgiven, but perhaps is angry because a) he's no longer the king, and b) he suffered for so many years? I can relate to most of that in my own relationship to God.

    Or is there another interpretation?

  •  I was there! (3+ / 0-)

    I had intended to leave after Act II (before it began) but I was hooked and stayed for the whole thing.  Matinees at the Met are wonderful - the audience (especially in the nosebleed seats) is fully engaged and yesterday even the standing room area at the very back of the top tier was full.

    To cut to the chase, I thought Girard's staging was wonderful - a beautifully sensitive updating using some technology (vivid, understated projections) and modern dress.  The knights were not in business suits; they wore white shirts, untucked, with black pants and bare feet, and the ladies were in gray or white dresses. This is a very common neutral modern dress approach - I've seen it in Shakespeare and all sorts of other period pieces.  It removes the historical specificity of the time period and replaces it with something more abstract, which here is fitting since we're told by the aging Knight that in this sacred place "time and space" operate differently than in the world.  Girard used a kind of chiaroscuro palette, with darks and lights vividly contrasted, which also made the bright white shirts of the Knights pop - another manifestation of purity.

    Girard's set designer (wish I had the name) also used what we recognize as moonscapes and simple images from space - sun and planetary images, abstracted - to heighten the desolation and grandeur.  Fantastic.  It gave Wagner the epic scale his works require.

    I've also seen the updated Ring Cycle by Lepage, and Girard's use of minimalism is far more satisfying.  There's nothing clunking around on stage, and the simplicity lets the music sing, so to speak.

    The performers were fine (Rene Pepe the best, Jonas Kauffman less satisfying, imo) but the staging is what I'll really remember.  

  •  joseph campbell (3+ / 0-)

    is the best i have read, or heard actually, at explaining the parsifal story. its 12th century. when the church is in real decay, but holds the entire culture. the fisher king, the pope, is wounded, impotent. the wasteland is what is, but not what should be. campbell also discusses the complex history of the legends to that point. wolfram von essebach is the version he loves the most.

    i have heard it on audio, absolutely spellbinding.

    it was shut down by the church because it absolutely was a criticism.

    "it would be a disgrace to embark on an adventure and enter the forest on a known path."

    war is immoral. both parties are now fully complicit in the wars. bring everyone home. get to work.

    by just want to comment on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 06:55:02 AM PST

    •  I know the name Wolfram von Eschenbach, but..... (0+ / 0-)

      .....haven't really read much in the way of the pre-medieval German myths and legends.  Have read a version (Penguin Classics) of the Nibelungenlied, which is a far cry from Wagner's Ring, of course, but that's it.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 03, 2013 at 10:42:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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