Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s Parsifal premiered at the Coliseum in 1999, has travelled the world since, and now returns to London for a final time. What was so revolutionary twelve years ago now feels just a little dated, but this remains a world class staging of one of the greatest operas ever written.
Wagner’s take on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s thirteenth century poem focuses on the Knights of the Holy Grail who are rescued by the ‘innocent fool enlightened by compassion’. In this production their deterioration is highlighted by a grey, concrete, bullet damaged set, while a meteor spinning through the air signifies that their world exists between time and space. If an opportunity for variation is missed by not adding more colour to the evil Klingsor’s garden, the Flower Maidens’ petal-like costumes and effective formations still create an alluring atmosphere.
The accomplished bass Sir John Tomlinson also proves a fine actor as the veteran Knight Gurnemanz is required to relate past events. As Parsifal Stuart Skelton initially feels wooden, but he possesses an immensely powerful and evenly toned voice, and his Act Two encounter with Jane Dutton’s Kundry hits all the right buttons. Dutton herself proves equally adept at portraying both the crazed, penitent witch and the brilliantly metallic-voiced seductress.
The mystical, magical sound generated by conductor Mark Wigglesworth feels entirely in keeping with Wagner’s vision that the music should rise from the depths (it was written for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus where the orchestra pit lies beneath the stage), and the result of such an accomplished production is that this lengthy opera flies by in no time at all.
Until 12 March (eight performances) with start times of 15.30 or 17.00. Tickets: 0871 911 0200 or from the ENO website.
Photo: Sir John Tomlinson as Gurnemanz, © Richard Hubert Smith