The opera Parsifal has had a long and complicated history at the Metropolitan Opera. The opera house and the performers from the Mets 1903 performance endured the wrath of Cosima Wagner for daring to perform Richard Wagners final opera outside the sanctity of the Festspielhaus in Beyreuth, Germany.
Although many of the myths surrounding the creation of Parsifal, as originally told by Wagner himself, have indeed proven to be myths, the fact remains that Wagner intended the opera to be performed only in the Festspielhaus under his direction.
It must also be noted that the rights to perform Parsifal served as the financial savior, as it were, for the Wagners and for the Festspielhaus itself.
Twenty years after Wagners death in 1883, Metropolitan Opera general manager Heinrich Conried announced that the opera house would produce a fully staged version of the opera during the 1903 season. Threats and lawsuits from Cosima Wagner ensued, and protests by local Wagner-philes were held to stop the Metropolitan performances -- all to no avail.
The Mets premiere production proved to be an artistic and financial success for the company, and the opera has remained a staple of the Mets repertory ever since.
The current production by François Girard has gathered accolades not only for the innovative production and staging, but for the sheer beauty of singing by all of the principle performers.
Leading the cast as the Holy Fool, Parsifal, superstar tenor Jonas Kaufmann -- with a megawatt smile and gigawatt throat -- sings with uncompromising artistry. Bass René Pape invests the role of Gurnemanz with a beauty rarely heard from so called Wagnerian singers. In the role of the tortured King Amfortas, baritone Peter Mattei sings with burnished warmth and diction so clear one could take dictation while listening to the opera. Rounding out the cast, Katarina Dalayman brilliantly sings the role of the mysterious and seductive Kundry.
Met Live in HD Broadcast of Parsifal
When: Noon Saturday, opera chat begins at 11:30 a.m.
Where: Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Cost: $24 adults, $20 seniors and students