Parsifal at the Michael Fowler Centre

By William Dart, Reviewed by William Dart

Parsifal is perhaps the noblest of all music theatre and a brave, laudable venture to close this year's International Arts Festival.

Back in the 19th century, critic Eduard Hanslick was warning about the danger of spinning superlatives about Wagner's music; but this work and the Wellington production invite them.

How else can one describe the return of Sir Donald McIntyre, catching the unswerving humanity of Gurnemanz with finely modulated singing.

Simon O'Neill has thrilled us in Auckland singing everything from Puccini to Bernstein; as the young Parsifal, he reveals his potential to become a Heldentenor of international stature.

Parsifal has the reputation of being a demanding and dramatically static piece, yet director Bernd Benthaak makes the most of a small stage above the orchestra.

Margaret Medlyn's Kundry and Martin Snell's Klingsor are quite a team and Snell exudes evil in stature and voice. Medlyn relishes playing the vamp, with a limitless repertoire of shrieks and laughs, and yet her later attempts to seduce Parsifal are unerring in their musicality.

A word, too, for Paul Whelan's Amfortas, whose first great outpouring, although occasionally submerged by orchestral waves, is intensely moving.

But there are a few niggles. The NZSO is too prominent visually. What extra magic might have been added if Wagner's orchestral sounds could have wafted up from places unseen.

And minor roles are unevenly sung.

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