Review: The Hallé/Hallé Choir in Parsifal, Act 3, York Minster, April 17

RYEDALE Festival poured considerable largesse into this promotion. A mere two days after the Notre Dame fire, in a building that had suffered a similar fate, Act 3 of Parsifal – with its Good Friday message of renewal – carried poignant connotations.

The evening opened, however, with the Prelude to Act 1, which offers the opera’s main Christian themes. Sir Mark Elder, conducting without a baton, shaped the Communion motif exquisitely, then tightened the rhythmic flow of the Dresden Amen within a glorious blaze from trumpets and trombones.

In the pastoral landscape of Act 3, Gábor Bretz’s Gurnemanz was all but submerged by the orchestra as he discovered Kundry (the resolute Molly Barker). Thereafter he found a legato of towering nobility that shone through all obstacles. Nicky Spence’s fiery Parsifal was at first a touch dry; when he confessed his guilt, his tone acquired a fearless new ring.

For Scene 2, the gentlemen of the Hallé Choir were augmented by singers from the Royal Northern College of Music and the University of York. As knights in procession, they sang from memory, to thrilling effect. Michael Kraus was an undisguisedly passionate Amfortas, buoyed by memorable richness in the lower strings.

The return of the Act 1 motifs unfolded diaphanously over rippling harps. Elder clearly understood York Minster’s acoustic, which lent an aura unimaginable in an opera house. Let us hope that Parsifal’s message presages a similar renaissance in Paris.

Martin Dreyer