“TO LET ONESELF BE EATEN is one method. The other is to rot away and thereby give birth to new worms. For the moment I tend toward the first method,” an exalted Christoph Schlingensief, German theater’s most eminent provocateur, told me last July, just a few weeks before the premiere of his production of Parsifal. I was inclined to agree. From a metaphysical point of view he had the biggest job in the business: The opera festival that opens every summer in the small Bavarian town of Bayreuth was originally financed in 1876 by oddball King Ludwig II and given the philosophical blessing of none other than Friedrich Nietzsche. Since then, Richard Wagner’s operas have been staged annually by directors, conductors, and singers who qualify as the international elite. Certainly, last summer’s production seemed no exception when it came to the music: Parsifal would be conducted by Pierre Boulez.
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