What an incredible two days! Although I lost a day at the beginning to blizzicane Nemo, I had the most amazing time at the final dress rehearsal for the Met Opera’s new production of Parsifal. As you can imagine it was a dream come true!
I was extremely fortunate to get a ticket to attend, but it was a last minute decision (sometimes the final dress rehearsals are not open to the public and this may not be known until only a week before). I planned to fly up on Saturday Feb 9 to enjoy some extra time in New York (the rehearsal was Monday Feb 11). However the airlines canceled flights into New York on Saturday as a result of the snowfall so I didn’t arrive until Sunday morning.
My flight to LaGuardia came with an incredible view of Manhattan, the clear sky and early morning light giving strong shadows and making it look like a gorgeous detailed scale model. Alas, phones were off and stowed by then so no picture, except in my heart.
The snow had been cleared off the sidewalks and main streets, but the shuttle into town did skid once on a side street in lower Manhattan. I shared the shuttle with a German woman whose husband will take up a medical residency at Duke soon so they are moving to Durham! She seemed surprised that I knew she was German from her accent 😉 Yes, I will strike up a conversation with anyone…
I checked in at the West Side YMCA, my home when I’m visiting the Met–it’s like a hostel but I pay extra so that I don’t have to use a community shower (!) Instead I use my room key to access an institutional shower/sink/toilet room down the hallway. It’s no hotel but was $95 a night and a block from Lincoln Center!
You can see how beautiful the weather was on Sunday. Perfect blue skies!
I met a friend and had a wonderful long brunch at my favorite breakfast place in New York, Le Pain Quotidien. I then hiked 20 (short) blocks up Central Park West to the Natural History Museum. The streets were full of families with young children carrying every kind of sled, headed for Central Park. There must have been about a foot of snow, and the park was full of families having fun.
While they were all in Central Park, I enjoyed a relatively crowd-free visit for the rest of the afternoon in the Natural History Museum. I only made it halfway through but saw the parts I love best, North American Mammals and the oceans. I was exhausted by this time, having woken up at 3:30am, so I made my way back to the Y.
Oh and I discovered what everyone else was doing at Lincoln Center:
The dress rehearsal was at 10:30am, so after another breakfast at Le Pain, I made my way over to the box office to collect the ticket at 10:00 when the box office opened. I sat in the orchestra row N on the side close to the center section. It was hard to tell how many people were there. Certainly the orchestra area wasn’t full, but a lot of the center area was roped off. I couldn’t tell if there were people up in the parterre boxes or other balconies. (Now that I’ve seen the production, I wish I’d thought to move to see act 2 from up higher…but I’ll have to wait until the HD encore for that perspective.)
This is the first new production of Parsifal at the Met since 1991! The cast is amazing, with René Pape as Gurnemanz, Katarina Dalayman as Kundry, Peter Mattei as Amfortas, Jonas Kaufmann as Parsifal, Rúni Brattaberg as Titurel, and Evgeny Nikitin as Klingsor. The conductor is Daniele Gatti and the director is French-Canadian François Girard, whom you may know as the film director of The Red Violin and Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould.
You can see some of the desks set up here for various groups working on things. I apologize for the quality; it was during an intermission and of course we weren’t supposed to take pictures. This is what happens when I try to photograph surreptitiously with my iPhone! During the performance there were dozens of people at these desks and even more, doing…well, whatever they do! Some were stage managers (notebooks on the front desk), many had computers, dials, cords, electrical–everything that is normally hidden away was right out front. I recognized Peter Gelb and the director, François Girard, walking around during intervals and of course Girard came back to the desks you see above immediately after each act, where many discussions took place!
There was a large bank of cameras which you can see in the first picture–they were down about 10 rows back from the pit and not quite centered but off to house right. The sound of the shutters was pretty constant throughout. Also one photographer was allowed to approach the stage and he took numerous shots–probably their house photographer. They were filming as well but only used one of the big boom arms. The hated (by me) gopher-cam was not used at all. I pray that it doesn’t return for the HD broadcast.
We were given a cast list and synopsis, the house lights went down, and we were off!
I was so mesmerized that although I noticed the shutter sounds, I assumed they were the managers next to me flipping pages in their notebooks! Occasionally someone with a clipboard would walk forward to the stage area or orchestra pit and do something, but honestly I had eyes only for the production! The time flew by, the curtain came down, and it was time for the first intermission. I’ll warn you, there are two intermissions and they are each about 40 minutes. This is not so they can sell food in the expensive opera house restaurant (although I’m sure they’re glad of that opportunity). It’s because the nature of the set is such that they need that much time to change the scenery.
The opera was run right through, just like a performance, with was no stopping for anything. We clapped as usual at the end of each act, and at the end of the opera, the cast practiced their bows–and it was obvious that bows do need to be directed!
I can’t really talk about the production or the performance. Not the production, because it was so magical to me that I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. It’s abstract, ritualistic, sensual, and spiritual. And not the performance, because for all its perfection to me, it was still a rehearsal. I’ll just say this incredible cast all sounded on top form (despite New York City being a regular cauldron of sickness).
If I lived in New York I would buy a ticket to every performance. I loved it that much!
I commend to you this article by William Berger on the Met site for background information and you can download a PDF of the program with more information here. You can listen to the premiere on Friday February 15 at 5:55 pm streaming from the Met right here. I hope you’ll come to the Met Live in HD on March 2nd–Susan and I will be in the audience–we’ll wave!