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The Crack Magazine


Opera North: Parsifal

Sage Gateshead

First performed in 1882, “Parsifal” was Wagner’s last great opera, with a libretto written by himself and based (rather loosely) on an epic German poem of the 13th  century related to the cycle of mediaeval Arthurian romances. If the original style of lavish staging is followed it must be ruinously expensive to put on, but Opera North is touring a concert production and it’s amazing how little the lack of stage sets and costumes affects the sheer power of the music. It helps, of course, that arrangements in the Sage permit the entire orchestra to fill the stage, and the chance to watch the music being played offers a mesmerizing spectacle in its own right. The chorus enters above, on the balcony tier behind the stage, and the acoustics of the space ensure that their voices have a clarity and distinctness not often heard in more conventional arrangements. The principals, of course, sing from the front, and with minimal movement or gesture but maximum expression as we can concentrate on their faces. OK, the story as Wagner tells it is pretty weird, permeated by the barely-sublimated sexual symbolism of the spear, the wound and the Grail, but the sacramental imagery that soars through the music was perfectly served by this simple, pristine account of the opera.

Gail-Nina Anderson