Saturday 7 December 2013

Exploring Wagner and Parsifal

Parsifal in Beijing, October 2013
Parsifal in Beijing, October 2013
Wagner's Parsifal received its premiere in China in October this year in a production at the 16th Beijing Music Festival. A co-production with the Salzburg Easter Festival where Michael Schulz's production was seen in March this year. In connection with the production, the KT Wong Foundation has released a series on YouTube called The Wagner Interviews. These celebrate Wagner's final opera, in a series of interviews with distinguished singers including Dame Anne Evans, Waltraud Meier, Sir John Tomlinson, and Stuart Skelton, conductors Mark Wigglesworth and Daniele Gatti, director Robert Carsen, along with Simon Callow, Stephen Johnson, David Nice composers Guo Wenjing and Zhou Long and  designer Richard Peduzzi who designed the Patrice Chereau Ring at Bayreuth.

The interviews make fascinating listening, it is notable to get the views of four such different but distinguished practitioners on performing Wagner and performing Parsifal in particular. All are conducted by Jasper Rees, in London, and in addition to deeper questions his set of questions includes how the performers first came across Wagner and their desert island operas (which are cue for some interesting reminiscence such as Tomlinson working in the Scottish Opera chorus for economic reasons, Evans first experience of Wagner being singing in The Ring with Anja Silja and Ramon Vinay, and Meier's wish to take jazz with her on her desert island and Evans wants to take Frida Leider's recordings).

But there are deeper issues as well, what really makes Wagner, and the vexed question of the composer's anti-semitism and how it affects the operas. Anne Evans is interesting on the Italian influence on the earlier Wagner operas. And some of the comment is quite trenchant, such as how unprepared some young singers are when it comes to covering roles.

There is much of interest here, but personally hearing singers like Tomlinson, Evans, Meier and Skelton talking about how they sing Wagner is priceless.

Further information from the KT Wong Foundation page on YouTube.

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