A bit of Bach and some Wagner

This month instead of traveling JP and I decided to stay close to home and see some shows in town.  Our first item this month was seeing Bach’s Johannes Passion at the Berliner Dom on the 5th, and last night we saw Wagner’s Parsifal with the Staatsoper!

Pics or it didn’t happen!

The Johannes Passion was both really good and really strange.  The music was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.  And all of the singers were really good.  The strange part was due to a weird post-modern twist they added to the performance.  First, before the music started they showed a video about a former US prison warden and how one guy’s death sentence changed his life.  We both found this odd due to the simple fact that there is no such thing as the death penalty in Germany since the reunification. The whole point was to add a weird post-modern philosophical twist to the Passion, which neither JP nor myself thought was really needed.  I mean, it’s BACH!

The second odd thing was the modern dance element.  Fairly often we went from being confused as heck about what was going on, to appreciating the interpretation and back to being confused within a couple minutes.  This isn’t to say that it was a bad performance, it just was NOT what we were expecting.  And I’m STILL not sure I was entirely comfortable about a bunch of shirtless men (and just covered ladies) performing in a Church… also the Pieta scene was oddly composed as Mary and Jesus weren’t the focus of the stage — instead it was a rather sexual dance between two other cast members, which we think was maybe contrasting Mother and Son with the first man and the first woman? Maybe?

We left not sure what we thought, but both agreed that we were glad that we attended, and thinking on it later over a week later we think that if it was in the budget that we’d totally go again.  Only this time we’d sit closer to the orchestra.  One of the amazing things about being in Germany is the high quality of musicians here.  You end up with professionals (or near professionals) playing the organ for a regular weekly Mass!

Last night’s performance was really good, but, like most operas, on the long side (and honestly I think if the seats had been a smidgen wider it wouldn’t have felt so long! I swear it wasn’t an attention span thing.) – we were at the opera house from 5pm until after 10pm.  The time did include two 30-minute breaks for refreshment/so they could swap the scenery.

JP has taken two classes solely on the book Parzival (notice the spelling difference), so he was really looking forward to seeing what Wagner’s  interpretation of the story.  From what JP said, Wagner took the idea of the story, kept a few key elements, and put his own spin on it.

Like with the Johannes Passion, there were some modern elements to the production – the sorcerer dude was garbed similar to a witch doctor, and Parsifal’s fools clothes (and entire cast in the final act) was a modern suit and tie, but there wasn’t a huge in your face here-have-some-post-modernism-to-go-with-this type thing. 🙂


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