A new Parsifal to premiere at the Hungarian State Opera

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Featuring a cast headed by internationally renowned István Kovácsházi, Andrea Szántó, Károly Szemerédy and András Palerdi, the new production of Wagner's final opera is staged by András Almási-Tóth and conducted by Balázs Kocsár at the refurbished Opera House. The 15 April 2022 premiere is also streamed live on OperaVision, whereas the 17 April performance is a joint Bartók Spring event of the Hungarian State Opera and Müpa.

In Parsifal, his final opera, Richard Wagner embeds fear of the temptations of the world and sinful desires into a tale of redemption. The work is indeed "a Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage" rather than an opera. Many viewers – perhaps out of their own fears – criticised Wagner, who wrote both the libretto and the music, for what could be called the piece’s virtue and remarkable complexity, which is the personal tone with which he portrayed a religious theme combining notions of sacred and profane love. 

Wagner expressly wrote Parsifal for his home theatre in Bayreuth, and that was the only place it was allowed to be played until the end of 1913. The Budapest People’s Opera (today’s Erkel Theatre) put a performance on the very next day, on 1 January 2014, conducted by the young Frigyes Reiner. The Hungarian Royal Opera (today's Hungarian State Opera) first staged the piece in 1924 and ran for 59 performances until World War II. As Parsifal did not fit into the ideology of the governing powers afterwards, it only returned to the stage after a plea by conductor János Ferencsik directed by András Mikó for the centenary of Wagner's death in 1983. 

The production was on repertoire for four decades and was performed over 90 times traditionally over the Easter period before saying farewell in 2018. The new staging by artistic director András Almási-Tóth was to be presented in 2020 initially, but due to the pandemic it had to be postponed by two years. The sets and costumes evoking present days were designed by Sebastian Hannak and Lili Izsák, the choreography was made by Dóra Barta. The cast features István Kovácsházi in the title role, his partners on stage are Mihály Kálmándy as Amfortas, Károly Szemerédy as Klingsor, Andrea Szántó as Kundry, András Palerdi as Gurnemanz, and István Rácz as Titurel as well as Eszter Zavaros, Anna Csenge Fürjes, Tivadar Kiss, Barna Bartos (Pages), Lilla Horti, Ildikó Megyimórecz, Lusine Sahakyan, Beatrix Fodor, Boglárka Brindás, Melinda Heiter (Flower maidens), József Mukk, András Káldi Kiss (Grail knights), and Judit Németh (Parsifal's mother / Voice from above). The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra, Chorus (chorus director: Gábor Csiki) and Children's Chorus (chorus director: Nikolett Hajzer) are conducted by general music director Balázs Kocsár.

Following the premier on 15 April, Parsifal can be seen on 17 and 23 April. The 17 April performance is a joint Bartók Spring event of the Hungarian State Opera and Müpa, the 15 April premiere is streamed live on OperaVision supported by the European Union's Creative Europe programme, and will be available to watch for six months afterwards.

Photo: János Kummer
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