Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Parsifal 

Radio Broadcast and Live in HD Transmission of Saturday, March 2, 12:00 P.M.

Broadcast Parsifal HDL 313
Scenes from François Girard's production of Parsifal at the Opéra National de Lyon in 2012
© Jean-Louis Fernandez, Opéra de Lyon 2013
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Music and text by Richard Wagner
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Gurnemanz     bass, RENÉ PAPE
First Knight     tenor, MARK SCHOWALTER
First Esquire     soprano, JENNIFER FORNI
Second Esquire     mezzo, LAUREN McNEESE
Second Knight
     bass-bar., RYAN SPEEDO GREEN
Kundry     soprano, KATARINA DALAYMAN
Amfortas     baritone, PETER MATTEI
Third Esquire     tenor, ANDREW STENSON
Fourth Esquire     tenor, MARIO CHANG
Parsifal     tenor, JONAS KAUFMANN
Titurel     bass, RÚNI BRATTABERG
A Voice     mezzo, MARIA ZIFCHAK
Klingsor     bass, EVGENY NIKITIN
Flowermaidens     soprano, KIERA DUFFY
     soprano, LEI XU
     mezzo, IRENE ROBERTS
     soprano, HAERAN HONG
     mezzo, HEATHER JOHNSON 

Conducted by DANIELE GATTI

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
The Metropolitan Opera Children's Chorus

Production: François Girard
Set designer: Michael Levine
Costume designer: Thibault Vancraenenbroeck
Lighting designer: David Finn
Video designer: Peter Flaherty
Choreographer: Carolyn Choa
Dramaturge: Serge Lamothe
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Linda Hall, John Keenan, 
     Carrie-Ann Matheson, Jonathan Kelly, 
     Patrick Furrer
Assistant stage directors: Laurie Feldman, 
     Sandrine Lanno, Gina Lapinski, 
     Paula Williams
Prompter: Carrie-Ann Matheson
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Children's chorus director: Anthony Piccolo
German coach: Irene Spiegelman 
Production a gift of the Gramma Fisher
     Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa 

Major funding from Rolex

Additional funding from 
     Marina Kellen French, and 
     the Edgar Foster Daniels Foundation

A coproduction of the Metropolitan Opera, 
     the Opéra National de Lyon, and 
     the Canadian Opera Company

THE SCENES  Timings (ET)  
ACT I 12:00–2:00
     Sc. 1A forest 
     Sc. 2Hall of the Grail 
ACT II 2:37–3:42
     Sc. 1Klingsor's castle 
     Sc. 2Castle garden 
ACT III 4:17–5:40
     Sc. 1The forest near the Hall
of the Grail
     Sc. 2Hall of the Grail 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel, 
     William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
     Elena Park

Directed for Live Cinema by: 
Barbara Willis Sweete
HD host: Eric Owens

For more information on the broadcasts, 
     please visit

Send quiz questions to: 
     Metropolitan Opera Quiz
     Metropolitan Opera
     30 Lincoln Center
     New York, NY 10023
     or e-mail

This performance is also being broadcast
     live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
     SiriusXM channel 74.
This performance will be transmitted live, in high definition and surround sound, 
into selected movie theaters, and will be shared with students in more than 100 U.S. schools
as part of The Met HD Live in Schools program. 
For information on tickets, visit


ACT I. In a forest near the castle of Monsalvat, Gurnemanz, knight of the Holy Grail, and his two young Esquires rise from sleep. Two other Knights arrive to prepare a morning bath for their ailing leader, Amfortas, who has an incurable wound. They are interrupted by Kundry, an ageless woman of many guises, who rushes in wildly with balsam for Amfortas. The king and his suite enter, accept the gift and proceed to the nearby lake. As Gurnemanz bewails Amfortas's wound, his companions ask him to tell about the sorcerer Klingsor, who once sought to join the knightly brotherhood. Denied because of his worldly lust, he tried to gain acceptance by castrating himself and again was rejected. Now an implacable foe, Klingsor entrapped Amfortas with the aid of a beautiful woman: while the king was lying in her arms, Klingsor snatched the king's holy spear (the same that had pierced Christ's side) and stabbed Amfortas. The wound can be healed only by an innocent youth made wise through compassion. Suddenly a swan falls to the ground, struck by an arrow. The knights drag in a youth, Parsifal, whom Gurnemanz rebukes for shooting the bird. The boy flings away his bow and arrows in shame. Kundry tells the youth's story: his father, Gamuret, died in battle; his mother, Herzeleide, reared the boy in the forest, but now she too is dead. As the knights carry Amfortas's litter back, Gurne­manz leads Parsifal to the castle, wondering if he may be the prophecy's fulfillment.

In the Hall of the Grail, Amfortas and his knights prepare to commemorate the Last Supper. The voice of the leader's father, Titurel, bids him uncover the holy vessel, but Amfortas hesitates, his anguish rising in the presence of Christ's blood. Titurel orders the Esquires to uncover the chalice, which casts a glow about the hall. As bread and wine are offered, an invisible choir is heard from above. Parsifal understands nothing, though he clutches his heart when Amfor­tas cries out in pain. Gurnemanz drives the uncomprehending boy away.

ACT II. Klingsor summons his thrall Kundry to seduce Parsifal. Having secured the spear, he hopes to destroy Parsifal, whom he recognizes as the order's salvation. Kundry, hoping for redemption, protests in vain.

In Klingsor's magic garden, Flowermaidens beg for Parsifal's embrace, but he resists them, and they disappear. Kundry, transformed into a siren, woos him with tender memories of his childhood and mother. As she offers a passionate kiss, the youth recoils, understanding at last the mystery of Amfortas's wound and his own mission. Kundry now tries to lure him through pity for the weary life she has been forced to lead ever since she laughed at Christ on the cross, but again she is repulsed. Cursing Parsifal to wander hopelessly in search of Monsalvat, she calls on Klingsor, who hurls the holy spear. The youth catches it and makes the sign of the cross, causing the castle to vanish. 

ACT III. Gurnemanz, now an old hermit, finds the penitent Kundry exhausted in a thicket. As he revives her, a knight in armor approaches. Gurnemanz recognizes Parsifal and the spear. The knight describes years of trying to find his way back to Amfortas and the Grail. Gurnemanz removes Parsifal's armor, and Kundry washes his feet, drying them with her hair. In return Parsifal baptizes her, then exclaims at the beauty of the spring fields. Distant bells announce the funeral of Titurel. They walk toward the castle. The Communion table has vanished from the Hall of the Grail. No longer able to uncover the chalice, Amfortas begs the knights to end his anguish with death. Parsifal touches Amfortas with the spear and heals the wound. Raising the chalice, he accepts the homage of the knights. Kundry, released at last from her curse of wandering, falls dying. The Grail brotherhood has been saved. 

Broadcast Parsifal hdl 2 313
Scenes from François Girard's production of Parsifal at the Opéra National de Lyon in 2012
© Jean-Louis Fernandez, Opéra de Lyon 2013

Broadcast Parsifal lg 313
Jonas Kaufmann in costume as Parsifal
© Micaela Rossato/Metropolitan Opera 2013


The idea of a music drama based on the legend of Parsifal occurred to Richard Wagner as early as 1845, when he was working on Lohengrin, the score that launched his career as the leading German opera composer of the nineteenth century. (The swan knight Lohengrin is in fact the son of Parsifal, and during his farewell aria to his bride, Elsa, he describes the temple of the Grail at Monsalvat.) But Wagner did not complete Parsifal until 1882.

Wagner at first ordained that Parsifal be staged only in Bayreuth, at his own theater. The music drama was introduced there on July 26, 1882, six months before the composer's death. Against the wishes of Wag­ner's heirs, Heinrich Conried presented the U.S. stage premiere of the work during his first season as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, in 1903. Protests from Wagner's widow, Cosima, brought the issue to court. Ultimately Conried won, and the Metropolitan's version was hailed by some critics as superior to Bayreuth's. The Met's next new Parsifal production, in 1920, was directed by Richard Ordynski and designed by Josef Urban, whose decors were not replaced until 1956, when the company presented a new staging by Herbert Graf. The Met subsequently offered new Parsifal productions in 1970 (Nathaniel Merrill) and 1991 (Otto Schenk). The company's new staging by François Girard, a coproduction with the Opéra National de Lyon and Canadian Opera Company, had its Met premiere on February 15, 2013, with Daniele Gatti conducting.


H. R. Haweis's useful Parsifal: Story and Analysis of Wagner's Great Opera is available in paperback or e-book form from Amazon. Less readily available, but worth seeking out, is A Companion to Wagner's Parsifal, by William Kinderman and Katherine R. Syer (Camden House). The Parsifal entry in the Cambridge Opera Handbook Series (Cambridge), by Lucy Beckett, is excellent. Dover publishes an orchestral score in paperback.

There are currently more than four dozen CD sets available of Parsifal, many of them excellent. For most twentieth-century listeners, German conductor Hans Knappertsbusch (1888–1965) had an extraordinary affinity for Wagner's "Bühnenweihfestspiel." Several live captures of various Knapperstbusch Bayreuth Parsifals are available on a variety of labels; his excellent performances from 1962 (Philips) and 1951 (Teldec) are easiest to find. Other valuable live performances are James Levine's 1985 account from Bayreuth (Philips) and Rudolf Kempe's 1959 performance from Covent Garden (Testament). Of the many "old master" performances re-issued on CD, those by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (DG), Levine and the Met (DG) and Reginald Goodall and the Welsh National Opera (EMI) are worthy of special mention. Noteworthy CD performances of more recent vintage are those with Jaap van Zweden leading the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic (Challenge), Christian Thielemann conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and Marek Janowski conducting the Berlin Radio Symphony (Pentatone).

There are plenty of Parsifal performances available on DVD as well. Top choices include Levine's superb Met performance of the company's previous staging by Otto Schenk (DG); Nikolaus Lehnhoff's production in Baden-Baden, illuminated by Kent Nagano's thoughtful, disciplined leadership (Opus Arte); and Harry Kupfer's Berlin production, paced by Daniel Barenboim (EuroArts). Two video performances of Wolfgang Wagner's Bayreuth production are available: the 1981 revival, led by Horst Stein (DG), and the 1998 revival, conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli (C Major). spacer 

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