Dodgy theology night at the opera

Thais190I seem to be in the middle of a run of operas full of dodgy theology.  First it was the Met’s Parsifal where Wagner à la Girard dished up a puzzling mixture of misogyny, sacred wounds, centuries long curses, bastardization of the Eucharist and weird holy weapons.  There’s a really good conversation about this over at Likely Impossibilities.  Today I was at Opera in Concert’s semi-staged production of Massenet’s Thaïs.  (My review of this should be in the summer edition of Opera Canada).  So today was more misogyny, hairshirts, lots of penance and the idea that the road to sainthood is to be a tart until one’s looks start to go and then torture oneself to death in an appropriately aesthetic manner.  Also, showing empathy for anyone not exactly like oneself leads to doubts, expulsion and damnation.  Coming up soon, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, in which salvation is achieved by rejecting anything to do with the Enlightenment and being guillotined.  There’s a Salome in there too somewhere though I’m not sure there’s anything that could be called coherent theology at all in that.

Blessed are the cheesemakers… Really.

9 thoughts on “Dodgy theology night at the opera

  1. John saw Parsifal at the Met for the first time in 34 years and despite the excellent performance and interesting (if to me at times obscure production) I still feel the same way about the work– come for the Christainity, stay for the misogny (with an added dash of anti-semitism). Also felt the Knights were a cult with a really weird object fetish. Never cared for Carmelites either–just can’t get all weepy at the end. Maybe all this religion is just the confluence of Easter and Passover.

    • There are aspects of Carmelites I like but I know what you mean. Curiously, the woman I was sitting next to at Parsifal left in disgust after Act 2. I found myself again sitting next to her at Don Giovanni on Wednesday night. Different hall, live not MetHD. A rather weird coincidence.

      • Actually, as the curtain went up for the third act and I realized there was going to be another half-hour of Gurnemanz going on about the mf’ing wound I was thinking why didn’t I leave after the second act which I thought was kind of fun–something actually happens–its almost like it was dropped in from another opera. Sounds like this lady left for other reasons. This is one work I just don’t get. I left thinking life is too short and Wagner is too long. At the risk of outraging all the Wagnerites I think this opera would be so much better if instead of having Gurnemanz go on and on and on about all the stuff that has happened we actually see it happen. DG sounds great, did she stay for that?

      • I think it’s been said that no-one ever leaves a Wagner opera wishing that it had been longer! Even after a fabulous Tristan a few weeks ago I was quite relieved that at last I could go and sleep.

        The Wagner tendency to narrate the stofry does get a bit tedious, especially when, as in the Ring, it’s done multiple times. I think Anna Russell has a rather funny sketch about it on one of her albums.

        The lady mentioned in passing that her problem with Parsifal was related to her having attended an abusive convent school. She certainly stayed for all of DG which was really rather good for a student production.

  2. You should have heard my dad’s long rant about the dodgy theology of “Parsifal” after we saw it! On and on he went about how “messed up” Wagner was! Not being much of a Wagnerian, I don’t know much about the history of the opera or what’s been written about it, so I don’t know if this is a common way of thinking or not… but does anyone agree with my dad that Amfortas is probably the character Wagner identified with, while Parsifal is who he wanted to be?

    • Is that the one where they of the nuns with hand grenades or something similar? I should probably look for it. COC are doing the Carsen production which I’ve seen on the Milan DVD but look forward to seeing live.

  3. Pingback: Gentle Death, I embrace you | operaramblings

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