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An ecstatic Parsifal at the Royal Opera

It's not even Christmas yet, but inside the Royal Opera House tonight, it felt like Easter has come early.

Tonight's performance of Parsifal was a revival of the 2001 production. Christopher Ventris sang the title role with conviction. Petra Lang was a convincing mad and schizophrenic Kundry. John Tomlinson sang a more lyrical than usual Gurnamanz and Willard White added wickedness to the scorer Klingsor. Its minimalist design and light-touch stage direction really let the music carry the drama. OK, there was the feet washing and flying sword, most of the time the singers were allowed to give the music care and space.

The real star was Bernard Haitink. The orchestra gave Haitink 110% tonight - not a split note in the brass section, the woodwind department was full of rich colours, even the strings were adding warmth to the music (I recall the drunken-sounding brass section in the Ring). But Haitink didn't take any of this for granted - he was phrasing and shaping the music as the drama unfolded on stage: every phrase and every note made a difference. Judging from the stillness of the audience, everyone was taken along this epic and dare I say spiritual journey.

p.s. Did I really hear an American lady answering the phone during the first 10 bars of Parsifal?


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