Bernhard Lang's new opera ParZeFool – Der Thumbe Thor will be premiered on 4 June 2017 at the Wiener Festwochen. Find out more about the composition in this interview with Simone Young, who will conduct the World Premiere.
You once conducted all ten of Richard Wagner’s major works in just three weeks. What fascinates you about Parsifal – both about the story and the mythology?
SY: I have been fascinated by the Arthurian and Norse legends since childhood. The Grail legends hold a particular interest for me, and in fact, I recently visited Montserrat in Spain – one of the reputed final resting places of the Grail. The poetry of a quest for something of great spiritual significance is rich and inspiring – and Wagner’s opera explores the themes of innocence, good and evil, power, seduction, forgiveness and reconciliation. The meditative quality of much of the score is unique and yet the passionate and aching beauty of act II is visceral in its sensuality too.
How does Bernhard Lang's music relate to Richard Wagner's Parsifal?
SY: Bernhard has taken elements of Wagner’s motives and melodic lines and set them in loops, the repetition creating a new, meditative/expressive level in an otherwise very contemporary musical idiom. Saxophone, extensive percussion, two synthesizers, and constant use of very complex harmonies, including quarter-tone clusters, give us a sound-world which is quite individual, yet references the Wagner Parsifal
In your opinion, what is special about Bernhard Lang's music in general?
SY: Bernhard’s music is very clearly sculpted – the phrase lengths and passage lengths are shaped for maximum dramatic effect. His use of drum-kit and bass rhythmic units is deceptively immediate and makes a very complex score seem very direct. His writing for the voices ranges from very lyric (certain passages for Cundry and for Parsifal), dramatic (Amfortas) and complex and deliberate (Gurnemanz). The chorus writing is atmospheric and adds a further depth of colour to the drama.
What are your particularly looking forward to in in the rest of 2017?
SY: Following these Wiener Festwochen performances I will conduct Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius
in London – a work which examines death and forgiveness in a very Catholic context, and which also draws on Wagner and Liszt as musical influences. Then my annual concert tour of Australia and of course, returning to Vienna to open the Staatsoper season with Prokofiev’s The Gambler
– lots of exciting projects ahead!
ParZeFool - Der Thumbe Thor (2016)
Music theater for voices, choir, ensemble and 2 Jazz musicians
after Richard Wagner‘s Parsifal
WP: 04.06.2017, Vienna (Wiener Festwochen)
15.10.2017, Berlin (Festival Immersion, Berliner Festspiele)
Opernwelt | 07/2017
„In general, Lang likes to play with different stylistic elements, mixes them up to a power drink. This is giving wings.“
taz - Die Tageszeitung | 06.06.2017
„Redemption to the Redeemer? Lang encounters this Wagnerian subject by seeking rather the redemption from the Redeemer and by layering a new musical object on the original work. That is – regardless of the musicological level – intellectually enjoyable.”
Deutschlandfunk Kultur | 05.06.2017
„Of course, Meese’s messy universe would appear very inconsistent during a normal performance of Parsifal, but fortunately there is the composer Bernhard Lang who dissolves Wagner’s music in dynamic loops and virtuoso overlay. That sounds so relaxed and jazzy, one immediately feels like shaking a leg.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung | 06.06.2017
„What Lang accomplishes with the music of “Parsifal” is quasi an affectionate deconstruction, an “overpainting” as he himself calls it. In contrast to his opera “I hate Mozart” of 2006, which was also premiered within in Wiener Festwochen and uses parts of different Mozart’s operas as basis of various loops, “ParZeFool” is more closely related to the original. Much just seems as if he would have cut Wagner’s score into short, still evident fragments to recomposing them afterwards.”
Der Tagesspiegel | 06.06.2017
“So it has become an entirely new work. This was also due to Bernhard Lang’s music. The music circulates around Richard Wagner, sometimes she seems more distant to him, sometimes she gets very close in individual motifs or even copies directly. Lang’s most important musical mean is to insist, to repeat constantly. The orchestra and soloist are quasi clinging on singular words and phrases through many bars searching for the “behind”, the essence. Percussion is of key importance because this “Mondparsifal” is a jazz opera, too.”
composer profile: Bernhard Lang
photos: Jan Bauer, Kasskara (Young)