July 31, 2016

"THE UTOPIA OF A DYING MAN":

Why 'Parsifal,' a Wagner opera on the power of religion, is so relevant today : Bayreuth stage director Uwe Eric Laufenberg talks about festival scandals and his production on opening day, July 25.  (Deutsche-Welle, 7/30/16)

This piece basically focuses on the religion of Christianity. On one hand, the grail knights in "Parsifal" inhabit a realm of charity, empathy and sympathy, and they come to the aid of the needy. Then there's the other side: a crucified God, blood rituals and military symbolism.

I believe that Wagner wanted to bring out the factors of benevolence and mystery in this work. Not to openly criticize religion, but to enable one to experience it. That's interesting in our own times of widespread religious fundamentalism - but also in times of a Pope Francis, who has been de-emphasizing the institutional side of the Catholic Church and stressing the factors of mercy, grace and benevolence.

It's always been pertinent to ask: What are religions doing, and are they allowing themselves to be abused for ideological purposes? What do they really stand for?

"Parsifal" is a five-hour musical drama with very little plot or action. The characters are mainly allegorical figures. Then everyone is redeemed in a happy ending. Isn't all that quite a challenge to put in scene?

If you just consider the text, "Parsifal" is difficult, yes. You need the music. It explains so much in detail, and you have to get a sense of that. Such is the case with the happy ending. Wagner knew this would be his last work. At the final uncovering of the Holy Grail, the violins soar upwards, the harmonies become clearer, and everything finally dissipates into nothingness. It's like a final breath, the utopia of a dying man, as it were - a very beautiful, holy, peaceful utopia.

Posted by at July 31, 2016 10:09 AM

  

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