Jan 25, 2024 - Things to Do

HGO brings back "Parsifal" after 30 years

Photo of two people on the stage.

The talent of the singers and the concentration of the musicians in Act 2 was beyond impressive. Photo: Lynn Lane, courtesy of HGO

"Parsifal" is back at the Houston Grand Opera after 32 years. The nearly five-hour opera is beloved by some and excruciating for others, but it's undeniably iconic.

Why it matters: Richard Wagner's last opera is one of the longer operas and is a beast to put on — artistically, logistically and financially. Because "Parsifal" is a mammoth, it's rare to catch a viewing.

Between the lines: The lead is being played by a Black man. To cast a person of color for such a rare viewing of a grand opera that is steeped in history and Eurocentrism "is kind of a radical act," HGO president Khori Dastoor says.

  • "You can do work that is commissioned to tell Black stories, and you can also reclaim historically white stories with artists of color, and that is really exciting to me as well," she says.

Driving the opera: Parsifal, a young man raised in a forest, goes on a quest before becoming the next king.

  • There's also a lot of medieval, Christian and Buddhist imagery.

My thought bubble: This opera was not for me, to say the least. But my gripe is more with Wagner, who's been resting in his grave for well over a century, than with HGO.

  • The plot bored me. A nearly five-hour opera should capture my attention— I could have binge-watched a whole season of "Mo" in that time.
  • Plus: The juxtaposition — albeit purposeful — of the medieval costuming with the futuristic "Star Wars"-esque set design did not compel me.
  • Yes, but: I don't regret going. I appreciated the beauty in the art. I just was bored by the story.

The bottom line: I commend you if you go see "Parsifal," especially if you're new to the art form. While I don't recommend it for first-timers, despite the opera's significance, Dastoor says to give at least the first act a try, and then you can feel free to leave.

If you go: "Parsifal" runs through Feb. 4. There are three more screenings left, with tickets starting at $25.

What's next: "Madame Butterfly" opening night is this Friday, and it's considered to be the foil to "Parsifal."


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