Premiering the state’s first staged production of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal will prove Victorian Opera’s biggest undertaking yet as a cast of 83 singers and 75 musicians take over St Kilda’s Palais Theatre for three performances only this February.
Considered Wagner’s greatest achievement, audiences will be transformed by the transcendental power of his music in this operatic odyssey set against the mythology of the Holy Grail. The opera follows the prophesied journey of simple hunter Parsifal from ‘pure fool’ to saviour in a sacred world filled with noble knights, evil sorcerers and bewitching temptresses.
“Parsifal is a mystical vision in sound: unlike anything else in music,” says Richard Mills, Conductor of Parsifal and Artistic Director of Victorian Opera. “It is the distillation of Wagner’s mature wisdom: a profound exploration of love, both carnal and spiritual, suffering, redemption and salvation.”
Australian audiences will experience Wagner’s soul-enriching masterwork performed by a cast of the world’s most illustrious Wagnerian singers, making Victorian Opera’s Parsifal one of the most anticipated productions staged in Melbourne in 2019.
Revered German tenor Burkhard Fritz heads the cast in the title role. He is joined by a sterling line-up of internationally-acclaimed contemporaries including Swedish soprano Katarina Dalayman as shape-shifting seductress Kundry and English bass-baritone Peter Rose as Grail Knight Gurnemanz. The three have long been staples of the world’s best opera houses, including The Met and Royal Opera House Covent Garden.
Melbourne-born bass-baritone Derek Welton comes home to star as fallen Grail Knight-turned evil sorcerer Klingsor, a role which won him praise at the 2018 Bayreuth Festival. Baritone James Roser also returns to Australian shores to sing the role of Amfortas, ruler of the Grail kingdom, with much-loved baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes appearing as his dying father Titurel.
Leading Victorian singers round out the cast, featuring the Victorian Opera Youth Chorus Ensemble (VOYCE) and students from the University of Melbourne among members of the chorus. In their second major collaboration with Victorian Opera, The Australian Youth Orchestra will bring their typical vigour to the pit; continuing Richard Mills’ dedication to nurturing the next generation of Australian musicians.
“This great cast, singers of wide experience in these roles, will bring an extraordinary dimension to these performances – which unite some of the world’s greatest singers with Victorian Opera’s wonderful ensemble and the vitality and energy of the Australian Youth Orchestra,” adds Mills
Roger Hodgman directs a sleek, modern production designed by some of Australia’s most accomplished theatre makers; Christina Smith (costumes), Richard Roberts (sets) and Matt Scott (lighting).
Steeped in Christian and Buddhist philosophy, Parsifal is a reflection on compassion and resisting desire in the face of suffering. Wagner was reaching the end of his life when he created this extraordinary universe of sound to express his spiritual, philosophical and dramatic ideas; written and composed with great maturity and his utmost technical proficiency.
His music is entirely entrancing; moving from solemn and sacred to luscious and sensual, and with moments of otherworldly beauty. An odyssey in every sense, its 6-hour running time allows audiences to immerse themselves in Wagner’s richly imagined world and absorb the transformative experience.
Conductor: Richard Mills AM Director: Roger Hodgman Featuring: Burkhard Fritz, Katarina Dalayman, Peter Rose, James Roser, Derek Welton, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Carlos E Bárcenas, Paul Biencourt, Shakira Dugan, Stephen Marsh, Kathryn Radcliffe, Rebecca Rashleigh, Timothy Reynolds, Juel Riggall, Emily Uhlrich, Georgia Wilkinson, Victorian Opera Chorus, Victorian Opera Youth Chorus Ensemble (VOYCE) and students from the University of Melbourne, Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO) Set Designer: Richard Roberts Costume Designer: Christina Smith Lighting Designer: Matt Scott
Palais Theatre, Lower Esplanade, St Kilda
Season: 20 – 24 February 2019
Information and Bookings: www.victorianopera.com.au
Image: Victorian Opera presents Parsifal – photo by Pier Carthew