Jordane Delahaye, Gleaner Writer
The Met Opera's new production of Parsifal is nothing short of mesmerising.
Richard Wagner's five-hour-plus masterpiece was transformed by François Girard into a sinister yet ethereal melodrama which traversed three acts of suffering to end in a triumphant flourish.
In Act I, we meet all the lost and tormented souls. Kundry (Katarina Dalayman) is a mysterious and cursed woman who must live eternally enslaved to two opposing sides, as it is said she laughed at Jesus as he was being crucified. It is also revealed that she can never weep, only laugh.
Amfortas (Peter Mattei) is the leader of the knights protecting the Holy Grail who is now gravely wounded from a battle he lost against Klingsor - a powerful sorcerer who is hell-bent on revenge against the knights because he was not accepted into their cool club. The downfall of Amfortas didn't only lead to him being wounded, but he also lost the Holy Spear to Klingsor.
The 'pure fool'
Gurnemanz (René Pape) is seemingly one of the oldest and wisest knights who is determined to protect the Holy Grail by finding the prophesied 'pure fool', enlightened by compassion, who it is said must retrieve the Holy Spear and set things right.
Parsifal (Jonas Kaufmann) is the 'pure fool' - although this is not realised initially - who apparently spends his spare time shooting things with his bow and arrows because, well, that's what one does with a bow and arrow. Initially, he seems like an aimless vagabond and isn't even aware that his own mother had passed away because he had been too busy shooting things with his bow and arrows.
Act I ends with everyone lost and tormented, and everything seems hopeless.
Act II carries with it hope and what could easily be one of the most spellbinding scenes to have graced screens in the Met's Live in HD series thus far.
The second act takes place in Klingsor's magical garden where the beautiful flower-maidens are meant to seduce the knights and trap them there forever. Girard's interpretation appeared to have shown the garden for what it really was: a nightmarish scenery set in a pool of blood. The flower-maidens each resembled Samara from The Ring, with their long black hair covering their faces.
We meet Klingsor here for the first time, and if the blood-drenched shirt he was wearing under his black suit did not inform you that he was the antagonist in this story, his blood-drenched hair would.
Parsifal enters the garden, and in a scene that looked like it came from a Stephen King novel, the flower-maidens executed a hypnotising dance in the blood-drenched garden as they delivered the hauntingly beautiful chorus - Komm! Komm, holder Knabe! This scene was magic.
Parsifal rejects their advances and also rejects Kundry, who is transformed by Klingsor into a beautiful maiden. By the end of Act II, Parsifal had become enlightened, had slain the evil Enoch, and had retrieved the Holy Spear - all while maintaining his virtue. Bravo!
Act III is all about redemption as Parsifal finds his way back to the knights and encounters Gurnemanz, who blesses him, and he in turn blesses a penitent Kundry. Parsifal then heals Amfortas' wound with the spear and becomes the new leader of the knights.
Only two more operas remain in the Met's Live in HD line-up: Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, set to air on March 16, and Handel's Giulio Cesare on April 27.