Cher Public

The sound of two hands clapping

If it’s in the New York Times, it must be true, right? “To this day there is no applause at the end of a Parsifal performance in Bayreuth.”  

  • Feldmarschallin

    They must mean at the end of the first act. There was always applause at the end of the second act and at the conclusion of the opera. My first opera there which happens to have been Parsifal was in 1984 with Meier as Kundry and have seen Parsifal and Meistersinger there the most. There was never a Parsifal where there was no applause whatsoever. But after the first act is correct. No applause and the music already sees that applause is not appropriate there in that moment. Just like Verdi wrote the end of the Ave Maria so that no applause would be given. The breaks the spell.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      At the old Met, the tradition was that there was no applause after either Grail scene. PARSIFAL was done almost every Good Friday as a special matinee. If there wasn’t a Good Friday PARSIFAL, it was replaced with a Verdi Requiem. I remember one occasion in the early 60s at the old Met when Solti conducted Act III, Scene 1 of PARSIFAL followed by the Verdi Requiem with Price and Bergonzi..

  • I understand that the Parsifal tradition is no clapping at the end of the first act. I wish the Met would use the titles system to read “please do not applaud” at that point. Act II and III, go nuts!

    • ianw2

      Like standing for the Hallelujah Chorus, a tradition that should be swiftly abolished.

      • Joe Conda

        And include the now-obligatory encore of Va, pensiero

    • What tradition? In the 2012 Parzifal in Bayreuth there clearly was applause at the end of act 1.

      • Boors!

      • Chanterelle

        What he said. I was terribly disappointed.

  • Unpredictable Inevitability

    Also, what’s a “Bühnenweihspiel”? Not only does that not mean “a festival for the consecration of the stage,” nor does the word Wagner actually used, “Bühnenweihfestspiel”…

  • Gualtier M

    The tradition I believe was that you weren’t supposed to applaud before or after the first act (the Grail act) but Act II was regular opera and fair game. Act III is dicey but I believe you don’t applaud the conductor’s entrance in the pit but applaud wildly at the final curtain calls after a respectful moment of silence. It reinforces the idea that you are partaking of a serious mystico-religioso festival consecration event whatzis.

    • tannengrin

      And that is already a great improvement over the original staging instructions Wagner drafted.

      According to those, the audience was expected to quietly prostate themselves as Der Grossmeister himself would be lowered from the ceiling into his box (after his death, that was supposed to be replaced by some referential illumination of a life-size statue of old Ricky).

      I think Cosima nixed those plans… it was too much, even for her.

      • Will

        tannengrin, while there is some almost-sex in act 2 of Parsifal, it is never consummated, so no prostates are involved. :-)

    • messa di voce

      And conclude the rite by booing the director.

  • Camille

    Ein Bühnenweihfestspiel is, ich glaube, Word here. I defer to die Feldmarschallin on this matter.

    My goodness but La Cieca is on a big Citizen Kane kick this week! Goody, as there is never enough of Orson Welles. Well, perhaps there was a wee bit too much of him corporeally, but you k ow.

  • May I suggest a new Parsifal tradition, based on my own experience…

    It was at Berliner Staatsoper. The house lights had dimmed, Barenboim was in place. A reverential hush came over the audience.

    Then, from the side of the top tier, an old man, who had arrived late and was feeling his way along the front to find his seat, screamed out in the darkness “Don’t push, don’t push! YOU’RE TRYING TO KILL ME! YOU’RE TRYING TO KILL ME!”

    It did wake folks up.

    • I believe that is not an uncommon reaction to Barenboim’s conducting.

      • cosmodimontevergine

        It might have been Elisabeth Furtwängler.

      • Henry Holland

        I’m not a big fan of Barenboim’s conducting, but oh my was he “on” the night I sat in the Staatsoper unter den Linden and heard his Parsifal. Stopped clocks and all that, maybe?

  • Flosshildy

    Yes, it’s a stupid tradition, and Bayreuth audiences have fortunately abandoned it, as you can tell by looking at videos on YouTube.

  • bassoprofundo

    I didn’t know there were people who still thought the NYT was a high quality newspaper.

    You learn something new everyday!

  • bassoprofundo

    I found this note at the bottom of the “article” quite interesting:

    A version of this article appeared in print on February 10, 2013, on page AR11 of the New York edition with the headline: Defying Wagner With Buckets of Blood.

    The last I checked, today is February 7, 2013. How can something already have happened which hasn’t happened yet?


    • Du siehst, mein Sohn, zum Raum wird hier die Zeit.

    • Bianca Castafiore

      It simply means this article will appear in print in the Arts section of this upcoming Sunday paper.

      • bassoprofundo

        Thank you, Captain Obvious.

        • Bianca Castafiore

          You are welcome, Porco Profondo.

        • bluecabochon

          If it’s so obvious, why mention it in the first place?

  • La Valkyrietta

    I wonder if Corinna da Fonseca Wollheim ever listened to recordings of Parsifal in Bayreuth. If she did, what did she think of the applause at the end? That it was added to the recording? The NYT article must mean the end of the first act. It is on record that even Wagner himself shouted “Bravo” while applauding at the end of the second act. :)

    • Flosshildy

      Ah no, Wagner shouted “Bravo!” *during* Act II, right after the Flower Maidens scene. Cosima described the episode in her diaries. The whole idea of remaining silent arose from a misunderstanding of one of his rambling in-house speeches.

  • papopera

    Why not applaud? Its not a funeral, its an opera. WTF!

  • Signor Bruschino

    Is the dress rehearsal next week one of the ‘closed’ dress rehearsals like Siegfried & Gotterdammerung had last season?

    • mandryka

      According to the in-house schedule, it’s open.

  • louannd

    Corinna da who?

    • La Valkyrietta

      Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim. Sorry I missed the hyphen when mentioning the author of the NYT article on Parsifal presented to us by La Cieca.

  • operaassport

    Lyric Opera of Chicago today announced the most boring season imaginable — and that’s saying something for them. Also a continuing collaboration with Rodgers and Hammerstein. Does someone there think it’s 1956? Well, based on that season it might be.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Here are more than 6,000 clapping hands and screaming fans for Leonie’s last performance at the MET. It looks like a first generation video from a camera in the wings on stage right. The solo bows for Rysanek went on for more than 25 minutes.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      By time marker 7:03, the camera has moved to the other side of the stage and Leonie’s second husband Elu Gausman appears onstage with her. They embrace. I wish that someday the many private movies and videos Elu took of Leonie in rehearsals and performances would be made public. The cheers of “Le-o-nie!” were similar to how we behaved for her first performances at the old MET, when long after they had closed the asbestos curtain Leonie’s ardent fans forced it to rise again so we could see her one more time. Our cheers fro her then were even louder and longer. She will always be in our hearts and here:

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

    • Buster

      Very moving, thanks. I did see her last performance at the Lyric, as Klytaemnestra, there were thunderous ovations there too, but nothing like this. Unbelievable!

    • Signor Bruschino

      Quanto- thank you for posting this! I was there that night (and two days later we had an insane blizzard if i remember) but this ovation, this performance was just magical.

      the clapping should still be going on 16 years later!

    • perfidia

      And the Met didn’t think Rysanek’s last role with the company was important enough to preserve on video. No. We had to wait for next year because the world was dying to have have Domingo sleepwalk his way through Herman.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Despite his pronunciation of the Russian lyrics, I think Domingo was a wonderful Herman and Leonie crawling on top of him after her coup de théâtre entrance crashing through the floor boards of the Met stage should have been preserved on video.

        • DonCarloFanatic

          I heard native Russian speakers throughout childhood and they don’t all sound the same. Not everyone says “Mahskva” for Moscow, for instance. I am not sure why there is this prejudice that only Russians should sing Russian language operas. It’s not a difficult language for an English speaker to pronounce properly because we have a similar hardness in our way of talking. You might say our sounds come from the same part of the mouth and with similar tongue positions. (Undoubtedly, there is a technical term for this.)

          I’ll grant you that Domingo, with his innately soft Hispanic voice, is not ideal, but he was acceptable in various German operas where more hardness to the voice also would have been “native.” I don’t think it should matter all that much.

          I understand why people are concerned with singing in French because the ligne de chant of the French language is actually quite foreign to English speakers. I have an audio download of a Hoffmann I can barely stand to listen to because the words are distinctly pronounced instead of elided.

          • phoenix

            DonCarloFanatic is correct. Regional accents in Russia are extremely varied in that vast country.
            -- Was Tchaikovsky looking for a specifically 18th century St. Petersburg dialect for his singers in Pikovaya Dama? Perhaps such an accent could have been verifiable in his time, but I doubt if it could be so now.

          • MontyNostry

            Interesting … I always thought that Anglo-Saxon singers would tend to lack that ‘soft-palate’ element that seems to be so strong in Russian. I’ve always noticed that, when native Russian speakers are making a particular effort with an English accent, they place the sound as far forward as they can, talking with the tips of their tongue and teeth, as it were.
            A British singer who (as far as I can tell) sings excellent Russian is Joan Rodgers -- I believe she has a degree in the language. Margaret Price always sounded quite comfortable in Russian to my ear too, perhaps because of the nature of her sound.

          • oedipe

            Yes Monty, you are right: Russian (Slavic) consonants are “softer” than their English (Germanic) counterparts. Also, Slavic languages have both hard and soft vowels, whereas Germanic languages have no soft vowels.

            More generally, language speaking and understanding require the mastery of three elements: pronunciation, diction and intonation. Arguably the most important characteristic of a language is its intonation (its melodic/prosodic structure). For instance, trying to speak a foreign language with an OK pronunciation but with a poor intonation will result in failure to make oneself understood.

            Whereas pronunciation and diction are acquired skills, it appears that the capacity to distinguish among the intonation patterns of different language families is innate. Upon learning a foreign language, one can learn to imitate an intonation structure; but newborns can already tell that, say, English is not French (whereas they cannot tell the difference between intonation structures within the same language family, e.g. they cannot differentiate between English and German).

            Most singers seem to think that it’s sufficient to approximate correctly the pronunciation of words in a foreign language, and they don’t bother to work on their intonation. This may not be such a big problem between languages that belong to the same family (so that they have the same rhythmic/prosodic structure), such as English and German, or Italian and French.

            Slavic languages have a different intonation structure from, say, English, but they are accent based languages, like English or German. On the other hand, Italian and, especially, French are not accent based (Spanish intonation is somewhere between accent and “melody” based). The French “ligne de chant” refers specifically to that melodic structure of the French language that foreigners have such a hard time learning. So, it is easier for an English or German speaker to imitate the Russian intonation than the French intonation, even though the Russian pronunciation may still be difficult to master (but so is the French pronunciation).

            I hope I expressed myself clearly enough.

            Opera relies more or less heavily on language and its meaning -less for bel canto maybe-, so a good mastery of languages (pronunciation AND intonation) is essential for good singing, IMO. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to give a damn, as long as long as the singers have good loud high notes.

      • Rysanek’s Met farewell also had Heppner as Herman in primo voice. Shame.

        • I should clarify that Heppner wasn’t the Herman for her final performance but sang the part in earlier performances of that run.

          And THANK YOU QPF for sharing this video — quite moving.

          • Feldmarschallin

            She is visably moved when she says thank you for 37 years. When I saw that I cried. I also wondered who today at their farewell would produce such a love affair from the public to the singer. I don’t think Fleming is loved that much, certainly not Gheorghiu. Perhaps Gruberova or Meier maybe. I do find it nice when a singer is given a proper farewell and not like della Casa or Grob-Prandl just stop singing.

          • Buster

            Juliette Gréco, perhaps? In opera, no idea.

        • Matilla was also in the case earlier in that run. Hvorostovsky sang Yeletsky the whole run. A video of a Rysanek/Heppner/Matilla/Hvorostovsky performance would’ve been a treasure to have.

    • Tamino

      Those who are better informed can correct me, but isn’t it true that Leonie was diagnosed with the cancer that ultimately led to her death during this run of performances? That’s at least how I heard it--that a doctor in NYC either diagnosed or confirmed the gravity of her diagnosis during the time of these Pique Dame performances, but she told almost no one.

      That makes this scene all the more poignant and heartbreaking.

      So glad I saw one of the earlier performances. The sight of Leonie breaking through the floorboards and climbing menacingly onto Gherman’s bed to reveal the three cards is one of the most haunting things I’ve seen on stage. What a fitting coup-de-theatre with which to finish her career.

      May she rest in peace.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Leonie’s disease was kept very private. Some of her closest friends in San Francisco knew what was happening -- not so much in NYC. On the dreadful day, late at night, I received a strange unexpected and unsigned email: “Leonie is dead.” Calls to her close friends in the wee hours of the morning yielded no confirmation. I phoned the Austrian press agency and they had no news of her passing. By the next day it was official.

    • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

      Thank you so much for posting this. It made me weep. Fond, fond memories of the unique Leonie.

    • rysanekfreak

      Amazing document of an amazing night! Thanks for posting!!

    • MontyNostry

      Was Leonie’s look there a model for Joyce DD in’Drama Queens’ mode?

    • Camille

      Quanto—ti voglio tanto, tanto benePainy Fakor—of all the wonderful things you have ever posted or ever shall, this is the most wonderful of all and I thank you with profound gratitude. It has always bitterly rankled me that I missed die Heilige Leonie’s last set of performances, as I would have loved to have been a part of that screaming Love-In. At least now I can see my beloved Leonie who was, and is, like no other singer in my entire life’s experience, and whom I love without reservation.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you.


      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        I understand Camille. I hope you have found a way to download those precious Youtubes before they disappear.
        It is a fabulous souvenir. I was one of a few people who were with her in her dressing room before she started receiving fans backstage that night. She was so relieved that it was over. It was not just another night at the opera. I too adored her.

    • perfidia

      Truly the end of an era. Wasn’t she pretty much the last singer of her generation to retire?

  • havfruen

    Anyone know if Verdi ever shouted “bravo” at a performance of one of his operas???

  • williams

    My Dear Quanto,
    I’ll be forever in your debt for posting Leonie’s farewell. We were lucky enough to be there and always regretted that there was no video.
    I was told years ago by someone who was employed there that the house videotapes every performance (for legal reasons?) and can only imagine, if true, what a treasure trove this would be. Assume this would be the closed circuit feed so no close ups but still…

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      I too was delighted to find Loenie’s ovation and speech on Youtube. There IS a camcorder video of the complete performance made from the audience that has nothing to do with any possible archival single camera made by the MET. As far as I know, it has only been shared by relatively few people who have sworn never to copy it. I have never seen the first generation and the dubs are diminished in video quality.

      • williams

        Hadn’t thought about it in many years but I wonder what the story is with those “archival” tapes. What happens to them and how far back do they go? One would have thought there would have been an outcry (or bribes) for access to them at some point.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Here are more than 40,000 hands applauding Bocelli tonight. The aplause was so long that an encore of the aria was demanded and sung

    • bassoprofundo

      “Dad, this is for you!”

      To think a family actually shares love for Bocelli.


    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Here’s the Corelli encore of the same music (Monte Carlo, 1960)

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      Maria Aleida is quite good!

    • stevey

      Yes, and I understand that there was much bitter weeping among the 40000 when the rumored duet with Katherine Jenkins never came to be…

      Reading about that I can’t help but be reminded of the story of that fabled Emperor of a far off land somewhere, and his magical clothes made of fabric so rare and fine that only the truly enlightened can see them……