Bernhard Lang, Jonathan Meese
© Jan Bauer Photography, courtesy Jonathan Meese
Meese-Berlin-Atelier-Portrait
Foto © Jan Bauer, courtesy Jonathan Meese

Today, 135 years after its world premiere at the Bayreuth Festival, Parsifal is one thing above all: an enormous, gargantuan mass of text. ...

... In his new composition, Bernhard Lang opted for preserving the vocal lines and the four-part harmonic structure of the original Parsifal-score. ...

Jonathan Meese
© Jan Bauer Photography, courtesy Jonathan Meese
Jonathan Meese
© Jan Bauer Photography, courtesy Jonathan Meese

Bernhard Lang – ParZeFool – The Arrant Fool

An artist’s involvement with an artistic testimony of the past, such as the oeuvre of a great poet, will proceed in a very different way from that of a philosopher or scholar of literature. (…) The poetic text becomes the artist’s material; it turns into a fund of signs which he has to connect with the signs of his own language. But – as happens with every kind of material: the more deeply you explore it, the more you realise not only that it asserts its own claim, but that in the end it says to the artist living today: “You think that I am your material, but in fact you are equally my material. It is I who strive towardsa new realisation through you.” And so a never ending, paradoxical process of transfiguration comes into being.This will lead to a result whose authorship cannot be determined unequivocally. If we view such a procedure as a paradigm, we would have to say that it is here that the essence of a reading of a text, indeed the essence of the cultural genesis of a tradition in general, finds its expression – in a completely different and much more fundamental way than in the methodical work of a scientist. Memory always also transforms what is remembered, and often works towards a continued clarification of the hidden, conflicting tendencies that it contains. In other words: cultural memory cannot be anything but a new interpretation of history.”

(Hans Zender, Beginning with Hölderlin…, in: Listening Attentively, Munich 2014)

 

Today, 135 years after its world premiere at the Bayreuth Festival, Parsifal is one thing above all: an enormous, gargantuan mass of text. This was already the case in 1882, and from the very beginning, only a very naïve interpretation of this tremendous score, which in truth showed no interest at all in the oeuvre and its actual substance, would settle for the greatest possible simplicity in the presentation of its poetry and its music. Already in those days, these were nothing but a promontory – albeit an enormous one – whose vast dimensions are highly suitable for obscuring the massif of philosophical, psychological, religious, mythological, linguistic-mystical, sexual-magical and other subtexts towering behind it, which constitute the true story of this scandalous work that Richard Wagner, rather misleadingly, played down by calling it a “sacred festival drama”.
The transfiguration of what is remembered, the continuation and clarification of hidden and perhaps also conflicting tendencies – in short: an interpretation of the work, which we are not only permitted but which is demanded of us if our experience of Parsifal is to become something different and a great deal more than just an annual exercise in devotion for opera lovers, simply cannot stop at a merely superficial rendition of the score, seemingly faithful to the original but fossilised in the late 19th century. On the contrary – it has to address the work itself.

It has to do this in particular because the sum total of literary text, composition, and both their condensed subtexts in their entirety is not a finished and therefore dead piece of literature which can be dismissed out of hand. Parsifal, like every great work of art, has not ceased to grow, to change, in short: to live. As a small hint attesting this observation it may be sufficient to remind ourselves that in 1882, the year of Parsifal’s world prèmiere, Sigmund Freud took up his first post at the General Hospital in Vienna and that his theory of dreams and his three treatises on sexual theory were published only about twenty years after Richard Wagner’s death.

Of course it is possible to close eyes, ears, heart and senses before these and other realisations, insights, developments and reflections of the past 135 years – which cannot possibly have been without influence on the way in which a person of the early 21st century experiences Parsifal – and to perceive both poetic text and composition with the childhood faith of a six-year-old, to whom the work, by the way, would be accessible according to their level of development, as a naïve, touching fairytale of redemption. A serious, grown-up analysis, however, needs to tackle the work at a far deeper level – ideally, in fact, it would have to start with the music and the text itself, with their historical and current subtexts.

Where to start? In such an undertaking, this is the first and most central question. Bernhard Lang has decided to apply himself to the musical side of this endeavour. His Monadologie-series, which he started in 2007 and which has meanwhile grown to comprise 32 compositions, using literary and musical texts of other authors as source material, appears in retrospect as the ideal preparation for the gigantic task of re-interpreting the original composition of Parsifal. Monadologie xiii, first performed at the last but one festival “Musiktage Donaueschingen” curated by Armin Köhler in October 2013, points in a direction that, in retrospect, mysteriously seems to hint at Parsifal, owing, on the one hand, to its accomplishment in mastering the large format of a monumental work for two orchestral groups, tuned a quarter tone apart and lasting more than 70 minutes, and on the other hand to the use of Anton Bruckner’s symphony no 1 as its textual source.

In his new composition, Bernhard Lang opted for preserving the vocal lines and the four-part harmonic structure of the original Parsifal-score. Spectral thinking, which can already clearly be discerned in Wagner’s music, is made more tangible in this compositional re-interpretation through his method of expanding the harmonic concept of the original. This is achieved by the way in which his notation of the six differential and summation tones each, which oscillates and varies in intensity, is made audible. Also preserved is the overall structure of the work, its temporal forms and the dramaturgical proportions. For his new rendering of the text, Bernhard Lang has chosen the method of eidetic reduction. This filtering process, which exposes and emphasises the core statements that are gleaned from the historic, new and newest subtexts to Wagner’s poetic work, results in a reduced text featuring key phrases and core concepts. An occasional flash of the unfamiliar in the language and music of the new composition has varying functions. The different, cooler pathos of the English language is here assigned to Amfortas; Ancient Greek characterises the role of the chorus, giving it an antique finish, French, which is the language of the Flowermaidens, is also a small homage to Judith Gautier, and jazz-elements evoke the magical realm, menacingly different and erotic, of Klingsor’s world.

If the use of these diverse colours is on the whole but a dramaturgical device, the few and rather inconspicuous changes in the text have a far greater explosive power. Even in places where they appear to reverse the message of the original into its opposite, they in fact only accentuate a tendency which was already inherent in the source material. When, for instance, Amfortas answers the fool’s question regarding the nature of the grail not with a secretive whisper, referring him to an ineffable mystery (“This can’t be said”), but by refusing unequivocally to divulge the secret knowledge to which he is privy (“This I won’t say”), it does not reveal a fundamentally new facet of the brotherhood and its master but just highlights a particular aspect of this militant male order guarding a mysterious sacred object.

Bernhard Lang also alters the original text in a key passage of the second act. Kundry’s great Gnostic promise: “Confession will end guilt with remorse, and knowledge turn folly into sense…” is phrased differently and with a psychoanalytical touch: “Confession will save you from feelings of guilt, and knowledge make sense of folly…” – and thus sets the scene for the end of the act where, in this version, Parsifal and Kundry promise each other knowledge and salvation by jointly singing the phrase: “You know where you can find me again.” This emancipatory approach of Bernhard Lang’s new interpretation, not only in relation to gender roles but also in a more comprehensive sense, is consistently pursued in the last act where it is no longer Gurnemanz who demands to be anointed by Parsifal, but Kundry, “que maintenant, ma bienaimée me purifie la tête”, something which in the end they both grant each other: “Soisbéni, Folle/Fou, par la Drogue pure”; this – by a small shift – culminates in the final prayer with which the work ends: “Deliverance from redeemers!”

With his new composition of Parsifal, Bernhard Lang has now, for his part, created a work which in turn is going to be subject to perusal, interpretation and a vibrant continuation of imaginative thought. Jonathan Meese will be the first to attempt this with the means of his art on the occasion of the world première in June 2017 which takes place in the context of the Wiener Festwochen who, with their commission, were responsible for this creative analysis of Richard Wagner’s last opera. (sh)

4 June 2017
6 p.m.
Vienna, Theater an der Wien Wiener Festwochen ParZeFool/ MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 UA

After the much-discussed cancellation of his directing engagement at the Bayreuth Festival, the artist Jonathan Meese will bring the conflict with Parsifal to a new dimension. No post-creative act can be expected at the premiere of MOONPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ARCHMATRIARCH OF ESPIONARCHY), but rather, an encounter of the visual artist Meese with the composer Bernhard Lang. With their new Parsifal project, the two will transport Wagner’s mythos into a revolutionary moment in a far-flung future. (Wiener Festwochen)

Bernhard Lang — ParZeFool Der Tumbe Thor UA

Jonathan Meese 
— MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ERZMUTTERZ DER ABWEHRZ) UA

conductor: Simone Young
directed by, set design and costumes: Jonathan Meese
Jörg Kiefel, assistant set design
Jorge Jara, assistant costumes
Lothar Baumgarte, light
Henning Nass, dramaturgy
Rosita Steinhauser, choreography
Peter Böhm, Florian Bogner, sound design

Amfortas: Tómas Tómasson
Gurnemanz: Wolfgang Bankl
Parsifal: Daniel Gloger
Klingsor: Martin Winkler
Kundry: Magdalena Anna Hofmann
1. Gralsritter: Alexander Kaimbacher
2. Gralsritter: Andreas Jankowitsch
2 Knappen: Sven Hjörleifsson, Johanna von der Deken
4 Blumenmädchen: Manuela Leonhartsberger, Xiaoyi Xu, Melodie Wilson, Marie-Pierre Roy

Klangforum Wien
Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Produktion: Wiener Festwochen
Koproduktion: Berliner Festspiele/Immersion

6 June 2017
6 p.m.
Vienna, Theater an der Wien Wiener Festwochen ParZeFool/ MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8

After the much-discussed cancellation of his directing engagement at the Bayreuth Festival, the artist Jonathan Meese will bring the conflict with Parsifal to a new dimension. No post-creative act can be expected at the premiere of MOONPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ARCHMATRIARCH OF ESPIONARCHY), but rather, an encounter of the visual artist Meese with the composer Bernhard Lang. With their new Parsifal project, the two will transport Wagner’s mythos into a revolutionary moment in a far-flung future. For this contemporary reinterpretation and appreciation of Wagner’s notorious final opera, the history of the masterpiece serves as an artistic launch-pad upon which the classic work is creatively stripped down and re-engineered so it can blast off in a new form. (Wiener Festwochen)

Bernhard Lang — ParZeFool Der Tumbe Thor

Jonathan Meese 
— MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ERZMUTTERZ DER ABWEHRZ)

conductor: Simone Young

directed by, set design and costumes: Jonathan Meese

Jörg Kiefel, assistant set design

Jorge Jara, assistant costumes

Lothar Baumgarte, light

Henning Nass, dramaturgy

Rosita Steinhauser, choreography
Peter Böhm, Florian Bogner, sound design


Amfortas: Tómas Tómasson

Gurnemanz: Wolfgang Bankl

Parsifal: Daniel Gloger

Klingsor: Martin Winkler

Kundry: Magdalena Anna Hofmann

1. Gralsritter: Alexander Kaimbacher

2. Gralsritter: Andreas Jankowitsch

2 Knappen: Sven Hjörleifsson, Johanna von der Deken

4 Blumenmädchen: Manuela Leonhartsberger, Xiaoyi Xu, Melodie Wilson, Marie-Pierre Roy



Klangforum Wien

Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Produktion: Wiener Festwochen
Koproduktion: Berliner Festspiele/Immersion

8 June 2017
6 p.m.
Vienna, Theater an der Wien Wiener Festwochen ParZeFool/ MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8

After the much-discussed cancellation of his directing engagement at the Bayreuth Festival, the artist Jonathan Meese will bring the conflict with Parsifal to a new dimension. No post-creative act can be expected at the premiere of MOONPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ARCHMATRIARCH OF ESPIONARCHY), but rather, an encounter of the visual artist Meese with the composer Bernhard Lang. With their new Parsifal project, the two will transport Wagner’s mythos into a revolutionary moment in a far-flung future. For this contemporary reinterpretation and appreciation of Wagner’s notorious final opera, the history of the masterpiece serves as an artistic launch-pad upon which the classic work is creatively stripped down and re-engineered so it can blast off in a new form. (Wiener Festwochen)

Bernhard Lang — ParZeFool Der Tumbe Thor

Jonathan Meese 
— MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ERZMUTTERZ DER ABWEHRZ)


conductor: Simone Young

directed by, set design and costumes: Jonathan Meese

Jörg Kiefel, assistant set design

Jorge Jara, assistant costumes

Lothar Baumgarte, light

Henning Nass, dramaturgy

Rosita Steinhauser, choreography
Peter Böhm, Florian Bogner, sound design



Amfortas: Tómas Tómasson

Gurnemanz: Wolfgang Bankl

Parsifal: Daniel Gloger

Klingsor: Martin Winkler

Kundry: Magdalena Anna Hofmann

1. Gralsritter: Alexander Kaimbacher

2. Gralsritter: Andreas Jankowitsch

2 Knappen: Sven Hjörleifsson, Johanna von der Deken

4 Blumenmädchen: Manuela Leonhartsberger, Xiaoyi Xu, Melodie Wilson, Marie-Pierre Roy



Klangforum Wien

Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Produktion: Wiener Festwochen
Koproduktion: Berliner Festspiele/Immersion

15 October 2017
6 p.m.
Berlin, Haus der Berliner Festspiele Berliner Festspiele ParZeFool/ MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9–23 UA

135 years after its world première at the festival theatre Bayreuth, composer Bernhard Lang has created a new interpretation of the text and the musical score of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, commissioned by the Wiener Festwochen. ParZeFool, Bernhard Lang’s composed interpretation of Wagner’s last opera, will be presented in a production directed by Jonathan Meese entitled MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ARCHMATRIARCH OF ESPIONARCHY). At the Berliner Festspiele he will be staging the opera entitled MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9–23 (VON EINEM, DER AUSZOG DEN “WAGNERIANERN DES GRAUENS” DAS “GEILSTGRUSELN” ZU ERZLEHREN…).

Bernhard Lang — ParZeFool – Der Tumbe Thor
Jonathan Meese — MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9-23 (VON EINEM, DER AUSZOG DEN „WAGNERIANERN DES GRAUES“ DAS „GEISTERGRUSELN“ ZU ERZLEHREN...)
UA

Regie, Bühne und Kostüme: Jonathan Meese
Mitarbeit Bühne: Jörg Kiefel
Mitarbeit Kostüme: Jorge Jara
Licht: Lothar Baumgarten
Dramaturgie: Henning Nass
Choreographe: Rosita Steinhauser

Mit Tómas Tómasson, Wolfgang Bankl, Daniel Gloger, Martin Winkler, Magdalena Anna Hofmann, Alexander Kaimbacher, Andreas Jankowitsch u.a.

Klangforum Wien Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Peter Böhm & Florian Bogner, Klangregie
Musikalische Leitung: Simone Young

16 October 2017
7 p.m.
Berlin, Haus der Berliner Festspiele Berliner Festspiele ParZeFool/ MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9–23

135 years after its world première at the festival theatre Bayreuth, composer Bernhard Lang has created a new interpretation of the text and the musical score of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, commissioned by the Wiener Festwochen. ParZeFool, Bernhard Lang’s composed interpretation of Wagner’s last opera, will be presented in a production directed by Jonathan Meese entitled MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ARCHMATRIARCH OF ESPIONARCHY). At the Berliner Festspiele he will be staging the opera entitled MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9–23 (VON EINEM, DER AUSZOG DEN “WAGNERIANERN DES GRAUENS” DAS “GEILSTGRUSELN” ZU ERZLEHREN…).

Bernhard Lang — ParZeFool – Der Tumbe Thor
Jonathan Meese — MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9-23 (VON EINEM, DER AUSZOG DEN „WAGNERIANERN DES GRAUES“ DAS „GEISTERGRUSELN“ ZU ERZLEHREN...) UA


Regie, Bühne und Kostüme: Jonathan Meese
Mitarbeit Bühne: Jörg Kiefel
Mitarbeit Kostüme: Jorge Jara
Licht: Lothar Baumgarten
Dramaturgie: Henning Nass
Choreographe: Rosita Steinhauser

Mit Tómas Tómasson, Wolfgang Bankl, Daniel Gloger, Martin Winkler, Magdalena Anna Hofmann, Alexander Kaimbacher, Andreas Jankowitsch u.a.

Klangforum Wien Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Peter Böhm & Florian Bogner, Klangregie
Musikalische Leitung: Simone Young

18 October 2017
7 p.m.
Berlin, Haus der Berliner Festspiele Berliner Festspiele ParZeFool/ MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9–23

135 years after its world première at the festival theatre Bayreuth, composer Bernhard Lang has created a new interpretation of the text and the musical score of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, commissioned by the Wiener Festwochen. ParZeFool, Bernhard Lang’s composed interpretation of Wagner’s last opera, will be presented in a production directed by Jonathan Meese entitled MONDPARSIFAL ALPHA 1-8 (ARCHMATRIARCH OF ESPIONARCHY). At the Berliner Festspiele he will be staging the opera entitled MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9–23 (VON EINEM, DER AUSZOG DEN “WAGNERIANERN DES GRAUENS” DAS “GEILSTGRUSELN” ZU ERZLEHREN…).

Bernhard Lang — ParZeFool – Der Tumbe Thor
Jonathan Meese — MONDPARSIFAL BETA 9-23 (VON EINEM, DER AUSZOG DEN „WAGNERIANERN DES GRAUES“ DAS „GEISTERGRUSELN“ ZU ERZLEHREN...)
UA

Regie, Bühne und Kostüme: Jonathan Meese
Mitarbeit Bühne: Jörg Kiefel
Mitarbeit Kostüme: Jorge Jara
Licht: Lothar Baumgarten
Dramaturgie: Henning Nass
Choreographe: Rosita Steinhauser

Mit Tómas Tómasson, Wolfgang Bankl, Daniel Gloger, Martin Winkler, Magdalena Anna Hofmann, Alexander Kaimbacher, Andreas Jankowitsch u.a.

Klangforum Wien Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Peter Böhm & Florian Bogner, Klangregie
Musikalische Leitung: Simone Young

Top