The RLPO began rehearsals in Santiago today. We are playing Parsifal, complete, in concert, on Tuesday. We have had some rehearsals in Liverpool but today was the first call with the soloists, off-stage brass and the choirs. The orchestra is appearing at the Xacobeo Classics Festival and Parsifal is the main event of this important festival. The Xacobeo only occurs when the 25th July occurs on a Sunday. The next Xacobeo will not happen until 2021. Therefore this is a very special year: the RLPO is very proud to asked to play and the list of other artists and events is very impressive.
“The Xacobeo Classics Festival is part of the Xacobeo year. This is more than a commemoration, it is a very special event that involves not only the Galicia area, but also the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, trying to unite worldwide visitors during the whole year, on faith, religion and culture.” GoDirect – event organisers.
Saint James is thought by many to have traveled to Santiago de Compostela with the Holy Grail and is said to have died here. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims travel to Santiago to this day. Parsifal has special significance to Santiago as it is about the search for the Holy Grail. Also, many scholars believe that Wagner set his opera in Galicia. This is the first time Parsifal has been performed in its entirety here. Therefore this event is important on so many levels. A stellar cast has been assembled and is as follows:-
Parsifal: Nikolai Schukoff
Kundry: Violetta Urmana
Gurnemanz: Kurt Rydl
Amfortas: Jukka Rasilainen
Klingsor: Egils Silins
Titurel: Ain Anger
Brno State Opera Chorus
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko: Conductor
This event also marks a milestone for the RLPO. Gerry Adamson is playing his last concert with the RLPO this week. Gerry has been in the second violins for thirty-eight years. Prior to that he was in the Ulster Orchestra. Gerry has seen everything in his career. Many soloists, conductors and he has many a story to tell also. This will be a first for Gerry too; he has never played Parsifal before [except concert performances of the Prelude only].
Our coach left La Coruna, where the RLPO is staying, and journeyed to Santiago. The trip takes about an hour and we were introduced to the Soloists and the charming members of the Brno State Opera Chorus. Vasily commenced with Act 1 and we worked solidly through that until lunch. I am a big Wagner fan. I try to listen to one Act of a Wagner Opera , at least, each week. I simply adore Parsifal. I haven’t played anything other than the Prelude before either. At lunch I briefly said hello to the Spanish off-stage brass players and then set off into Santiago to see the Cathedral and to buty stamps for my postcards home. The RLPO has toured here before but this is my first time. I could not believe the sheer size and scale of the Cathedral here, the main square, the attached buildings and the surrounding monasteries etc. It is incredible; the town is also very beautiful. What a pleasure and privilege it is to be here.
After lunch we concerned ourselves with the Second Act. Parsifal enters the evil magician Klingsor’s realm. The Flower Maidens try to seduce him and fail. Parsifal is an innocent – only an innocent can find the grail. In Klingsor’s magic castle the sorcerer tries to kill Parsifal with a magic spear. Such drama! Exquisit music too. I was particularly impressed with the singing of Kundry, Violetta Urmana, in this Act. She is simply a tour de force; magnificent.
The opera is some five hours or so and very tiring for everyone to rehearse. There is even a complete day free before the performance for everyone to recharge their ‘batteries’ to play the concert on full energy. For a trumpeter, at first glance Parsifal does not have many notes, but is very exposed, with lonely, slow chorales. It is quite a scary piece for us. Our section leader, Rhys Owens, seems oblivious as he negotiates all the solos with an apparent consummate ease. He never seems troubled by the stress and nerves which afflict others.
The rehearsal over, we travelled back to la Coruna. Bizarrely, Our coach was male only as this evening is Violinist Kate Marsden’s ‘Hen’ night. She is getting married when the RLPO return from Spain and the ladies wanted to kick off the proceedings with their own coach. Once back I decided to lock myself in my hotel room for the night. With the RLPO ladies ‘running amok’ about the place this evening it may well not be safe out there!
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