Friday, February 22, 2013

Prokofiev over Wagner

It wasn't quite a fair match, I grant you, Sergei vs. Richard.

I saw Pacific Northwest Ballet perform "Roméo et Juliette" last Saturday afternoon and was so entranced by it that I got myself a recording (Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra) and have been steeping myself in it. As of Wednesday I don't need to listen to it any more. Tragic and glorious, the multifaceted, tonally entirely distinctive but coherent musical world is with me, different parts coming to mind at different times - and all the time. It's like when I fell in love with Janacek's musical world through the "Cunning Little Vixen." I might add that the production was beautifully done, too, often wonderfully witty choreography by Jean-Christophe Maillot, lovely lighting, and a very dashing Romeo, the freshly principal dancer'd James Moore. In another life I'd like to be a dancer in that production.

Still, "Parsifal," which I saw at the Met last night, is a big dose of Wagnerian magic. Although a drearily unbeautiful production with lots of singers standing or slumped for extended periods of time (the knights were lucky to have chairs in the first act) and tedious anxieties about the redemptive power of heterosexual union, it was magnificently sung. René Pape's Gurnemanz was exquisite. (A taste.) And it is nearly six hours of its own kind of musical steeping. Besides, "Parsifal" is the first opera I saw at the Met years ago, standing at the top of the Family Circle, watching Jessye Norman inch across the stage moaning "Dienen... dienen," and then redeemed. I can still remember being lifted by the ascending chromatic Leitmotif of the grail, which seemed to stretch my spine long after the opera's end.

This "Parsifal" leaves you where it finds you, in post-apocalyptic twilight. "Romeo and Juliet" tells of a world of doomed happiness, but it was Prokofiev waiting for me in the plaza of Lincoln Center.

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