Parsifal – review

Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Appropriately enough, the Mariinsky theatre's brief visit to Britain this week is dominated by an opera that ends on Good Friday. Wagner's Parsifal has been a central part of the St Petersburg company's repertoire ever since Valery Gergiev conducted the work's first public performance in Russia in 1997, and the recording they released two years ago is one of the finest recent versions on disc.

That performance featured an international cast; on the current tour the singers are all company members – a mixture of familiar faces and up-and-coming ones. What remains a constant is Gergiev's wonderfully supple handling of the score and his almost faultless dramatic shaping of it, reinforced by his orchestra's fabulously refined playing. The brass in particular was magnificent, with a principal trumpet with just enough vibrato to suggest a loucheness that seemed entirely appropriate in an opera that entwines sex and religion so queasily. The off-stage voices were too far off – Titurel sounded as though he was adrift in Cardiff Bay – and the electronically synthesised bells were a miscalculation, more like an ice-cream van than the real thing.

Sections occasionally dragged, but that was less Gergiev's fault than his singers'. Neither Avgust Amonov's Parsifal nor Yury Vorobiev's Gurnemanz really gave much sense of a character; a Parsifal who doesn't grow in stature through the opera is as problematic as a Gurnemanz who doesn't make his great narrations compelling, and we had both here. On the plus side were Evgeny Nikitin's engaged Amfortas, Nikolai Putlin's stentorian Klingsor (despite an on-stage tumble), Larisa Gogolevskaya's Kundry (squally in the first act, but focused and dramatically intense when it mattered in the second) and, above all, Gergiev's conducting.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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