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Downton Abbey to get a Musical Guest, and my Brush with Wagner

March 3, 2013

I got to see half of Parsifal yesterday.


It was Wagner’s last opera. I guess it wasn’t the Ring Cycle that killed him. Apparently it is said to be the most spiritual of Wagner’s operas. It was a different take on the Holy Grail legend than the Monty Python movie. And these guys actually had the Grail, although they had foolishly lost the Holy Spear. I’m not sure if they still had the holy knife and fork from the last supper, but I hear that they still had the holey sieve (groan).


I had enough time for three hours of viewing, but it took six hours, complete with intermissions. The First act alone took close to two hours. So I had to leave early in the second act. Still, half of a spiritual Wagnerian loaf is better than none, and especially when it comes to a performance of that quality. It was a great production, staged at the Met in New York. But I was in Toronto and I was watching a Live at the Met performance. I hear that things really pick up in Act 2. I had to leave just after we saw the evil wizard scooping up a river of blood and pouring it over his head. You get the idea. And speaking of all the blood, I missed the part of Parsifal (Percival in English) surrounded by the pretty, but probably evil girls. You can tell the girls are evil because they have diaphanous clothing, really long hair and they are standing in blood. Plus they have really evil looks on their faces. I wonder if they had vampire fangs as well. At least the folks at the Met will have something to wear at Halloween.


The theatre had a huge screen and while there is nothing like being there, I really liked the live at the met experience. For someone like me, who doesn’t like to rattle his jewelry, the more down to earth Live at the Met experience is pretty good, and the viewing is a lot better than what you can see from the nose-bleed seats I can normally afford if I go to live opera. Am a fan of Live at the Met? Yes I am. I’ve never seen a Met performance before, but after seeing Parsifal yesterday I am hooked. I’ve seen opera in Helsinki, Vienna, Budapest and Toronto, but Parsifal was probably the most lavish performance I’ve yet seen. The Met is doing a great job with Wagner this year, with the Ring Cycle still to come. Unfortunately the Ring Cycle won’t be shown in HD (i.e., we won’t be able to see it on Live at the Met in Toronto). But don’t despair if you can’t go to the Met to see opera in person. There are still two more HD performances this season and they both look pretty interesting. One is Handel’s take on Julius Caesar, and the other is Francesca, which is a love triangle where the two lovers get killed. Sorry I spoiled the ending for you, but hey, it’s opera and people have to die. The full schedule is shown below.


But let’s get back to Downton Abbey. It seems that Dame Kiri Ti Kanawa, New Zealand’s greatest opera singer, who retired from opera in 2009, is looking for another gig. And maybe the folks at Downton Abbey were looking for a new twist to keep the show fresh. So voila, Dame Kiri shows up as a musical guest and performs a song on the show. I wonder if Dame Kiri will be singing something from a musical or broadway show (maybe comforting the kids in thunderstorm with “My Favorite Things”?).


And it is not just Dame Kiri freshening up the show ( ). “Other new actors joining the cast include veteran actress Harriet Walter, who recently played Brutus in an all-female production of Julius Caesar, and former EastEnders star and theatre actor Nigel Harmon.”

An all-female production of Julius Caesar? Women at a toga party? I doubt that George Frideric could Handel that (another groan). I hope that this doesn’t mean that Downton Abbey will be turning into a frat house next season. And if they do they definitely shouldn’t invite those evil girls from Parsifal to the parties or they might lose their holy spears.
High class opera, and high class soap opera. Will Dame Kiri be just the start of a new wave of aging opera stars adding soap opera appearances to their resumés?



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