Parsifal, Saturday at 5:45 PM
Bill Mason gets on the phone and says, ‘How would you like to be our next music director?’ And I said, ‘Oh yes, as long as I can do lots of Wagner.’
—Sir Andrew Davis
Lyric Opera of Chicago gets set for Round 3, their third production of the 2013-2014 season. It seems no LOC season is complete without at least one of the German composer’s operas/music dramas/or stage-consecrating festival plays, as he referred to this one. We’re talking about Richard Wagner’s final opus, Parsifal.
Director John Caird and designer Johan Engels underwent an intense process together, grappling with the many layers contained within the score to Wagner’s Parsifal. Which themes are most essential? How does one convey those themes to the audience:
Lyric’s production of Parsifal stars Paul Groves as the foolish youth who is bound to the knights of Montsalvat, but unable to fulfill his destiny until he learns compassion. Director John Caird discusses that central conflict.
Parsifal alienated a number of Wagner’s admirers. Friedrich Nietzsche famously revered the music and reviled the subject matter. The libretto and its interplay with the score infer so many philosophical points which have led to endless debate. Director John Caird discusses some of the Christian symbolism in Parsifal:
I knew that I had to visit Bayreuth before I conducted Parsifal. Parsifal is the only one of the Wagner operas that was composed after the opening of the Festspielhaus, which he designed in every way to be the ideal environment to perform his works…It was my first time ever to sit in that house on those extremely uncomfortable seats; and it was baking hot, so you were dripping with sweat before anything started. The lights go down, the doors close with this wonderful clang…And then the music began.
If you haven’t heard it, it’s worth going to Bayreuth once in your life to hear the opening of Parsifal in that theater because the sound: one has no idea where the sound is coming from. It’s coming from nowhere and everywhere. And this is one of…the most beautiful openings of anything that anyone ever wrote.
I never forget that experience. So whenever I conduct this piece…I always try to recreate that sound as best I can.
—Sir Andrew Davis