‘Parsifal’ to show the essence of Wagner opera

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Sept 10, 2013 - 20:43
  • Updated : Sept 10, 2013 - 20:43
Korea National Opera’s staging of Wagner’s “Parsifal” at the Seoul Arts Center Opera House on Oct. 1, 3 and 5 will be a highlight for Wagnerians here celebrating the 200th anniversary of the German composer’s birth.

It is the Korean premiere of the master’s last piece and perhaps the longest production in the history of the state opera company ― the show starts at 4 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. with an hour allotted for dinner between the acts. 
Director Philippe Arlaud (from far left), conductor Lothar Zagrosek, mezzo soprano Yvonne Naef, tenor Christopher Ventris and bass Youn Kwang-chul pose for the press at Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Seoul on Tuesday. (Korea National Opera)

Internationally acclaimed Wagnerian bass singer Youn Kwang-chul will, for the first time, present his interpretation of Guernemanz to Koreans, while tenor Christopher Ventris, who performs the title role around the world, will play Parsifal. They are joined by French director Philippe Arlaud and former Staatstheater Stuttgart music director Lothar Zagrosek leading the Korean Symphony Orchestra. The opera features the young and innocent Parsifal growing into the guardian of the Holy Grail and the savior of knights.

The upcoming production will be a perfect chance for opera fans to peek into the “final confession” of Wagner, who is often hailed as the “compiler of German opera.”

“Wagner had charisma among the audience and his music overwhelmed them. It was a little different from other musicians of the same period ― say, Verdi,” Zagrosek said at a press conference held on Tuesday.

“His music had great influence on other musicians ― Mahler, Schoenberg, Brukner, and even Strauss. And the late Isang Yun, the Germany-based Korean composer, was definitely under his influence, too,” he said.

“In ‘Parsifal’ there is a soul-searching journey, adventure, myths and even some Christian motifs all blended in the eyes of Wagner,” said Arlaud, who was hailed for his interpretation of “Tannhauser” at the Bayreuther Festival from 2002-2007.

For the set, Arlaud and his crew have created a gigantic tree as well as glaciers, the illusion of a long stream and other special effects. For the costumes, 50 different shades of blue will be used to represent the knights, and various lighting heightens the atmosphere.

Youn, who has been playing Gurnemanz at the Bayreuther Festival since 2008, said the opera will have its classic ending, where Parsifal faces heroic death. The Seoul National University professor has been deeply involved in the project from the very beginning.

“In the Western Hemisphere, ‘Parsifal’ has been staged numerous times and its details and endings have been altered to differentiate one production from another. But this time, we will stick with Wagner’s original version and stay classic to allow the Korean audience to experience the essential Wagner,” the bass singer said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)