Maestro Christian Badea on Parsifal at the Romanian Athenaeum: “We are just trying to bring to the public, and in the cultural life of this city, a very important part of world culture”

Two concert-shows with the first act of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal will be presented on October 7 and 8 at the Romanian Athenaeum. Staged in partnership with the Romanian Cultural Institute and the “George Enescu” Philharmonic, the concerts open the 2016 – 2017 season of the prestigious Bucharest musical institution.

The two performances of high artistic standard will feature world famous artists. Performing under the baton of Christian Badea will be the “George Enescu” Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, and guest soloists Stefan Vinke (Parsifal), Eric Halfvarson (Gurnemanz), Petra Lang (Kundry), Bela Perencz (Amfortas), who are currently considered among the greatest interpreters of the Wagnerian repertoire. Romanian Opera and Philharmonic artists, the Radio Children’s Choir and students from the “Floria Capsali” Choreography High School are also on the bill of the shows.

According to the Director General of the “George Enescu” Philharmonic Andrei Dimitriu, this project takes the Romanian artistic world out of a certain provincialism, conferring the Athenaeum European cultural prestige. Dimitriu expressed hope at a press conference last week that Parsifal will be staged in full in Romania in 2017.

The third act of Parsifal was performed in May 2015 at the Romanian Athenaeum.

According to the organizers, the concert-events “Parsifal at the Romanian Athenaeum” are a new concept that breaks ground not just in Romania but in the world, presenting Wagner’s creation in a show having the audience in the middle of the action, by combining the musical components (orchestra, choir, soloists) with complex dramatic elements (lights, scenery, costumes, visual and sound effects).

On October 6 the protagonists of Parsifal – tenor Stefan Vinke, veteran bass Eric Halfvarson, mezzo-soprano Petra Lang and bass baritone Bela Perencz – will hold a series of master classes for Romanian artists interested in the Wagnerian repertoire, with the courses offered for free by the Romanian Foundation for Excellence in Music ( FREM) whose President is maestro Christian Badea.

The general rehearsal on October 5, at 19:00 hrs, is dedicated to the young generation of pupils and students.

Parsifal is based on the 13th century epic poem Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, that narrates the story of Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, as well as on Perceval, or The Story of the Grail, by Chrétien de Troyes.

Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857, but finished it only after 25 years, this being the composer’s last completed opera. Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882; the Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.


German Ambassador Lauk: Richard Wagner Society – a sustainable contribution to Romania – Germany cultural exchanges


German Ambassador in Bucharest Werner Hans Lauk considers that the establishment in Romania of the Richard Wagner Society whose honorary chairmanship he has recently taken over will make a sustainable contribution to the development of cultural exchanges between Romania and Germany.parsifal lauk badea

The new Wagner society of Romania will know how to provide the opportunity for an in-depth look at the exceptional artist Richard Wagner and the effects and impact of his work. Practically, the Wagner Society will make a sustainable contribution to cultural exchanges between Romania and Germany, the German diplomat told a press conference last week.


Declaring himself delighted to hold the chairmanship of the Wagner Society, Ambassador Lauk said the launch of the society is a major event that paves the way for the promotion in Romania of the music of the great German composer.

Personally, I am a passionate music lover. Today I explicitly consider myself an ambassador of German art and culture. I cannot but appreciate the fact that in Romania, a country with great music tradition and artistic potential, Richard Wagner’s operatic work will be staged and cultivated as it fits its importance, said the German Ambassador.

Maestro Christian Badea, opera and symphonic conductor under whose baton the Romanian Philharmonic’s Orchestra and Choir will offer alongside famous soloists the grandiose show at the Athenaeum granted an exclusive interview to Nine O’Clock:


Esteemed Mr. Christian Badea, there is only a short time left until the opening bell of “Parsifal at the Romanian Athenaeum,” a grandiose high-class show that will bring under your baton the orchestra and choir of the ‘George Enescu’ Philharmonic Orchestra but also prestigious Wagnerian performers who have thrilled the world’s audience throughout time. Can you talk to us a bit about the vision, about what you are bringing as a novelty with the staging of Act I of Richard Wagner’s “Parsifal”?


I started with the idea that the Athenaeum, which was built exactly in the same period as the premiere of Parsifal in Bayreuth, is a perfect place for the legend of the Cavaliers of the Grail, because of its round shape and the magic feeling that one always has in that auditorium. The sound of the choir coming from the foyer has also a mystical quality.

Following on that idea, I put the singers and the chorus in around the hall, so the audience will be in the middle of the action and become part of it.


What is the stage of your preparations and rehearsals for this show which is highly awaited by the audience in Romania and not only?


We have started the rehearsals which will get very intense and practically round the clock, as soon as the Enescu Competition is finished and we can use the stage.


We know that usually surprises are not disclosed, however we ask you, on behalf of Nine O’Clock readers interested in this event-show, to briefly present at least one of the surprise elements and novelties of this show.


Unfortunately, I cannot. You must come and experience the performance live. For this reason, we are not recording or broadcasting any of the performance.


Almost a year and a half has passed since the launch of the “Parsifal at the Romanian Athenaeum” Project whose goal is, among others, to build a Wagnerian tradition in Romania through the contribution brought by Romanian and foreign artists. What are your conclusions, after this period of preparations for the great event, in what concerns the outlook of building this Wagnerian tradition here?


It will be very difficult, because while there is curiosity and even interest, the basics of musical education and even how professionalism is understood in Romania, are not at the level of the other countries with musical tradition. It is a tradition of excellence which Romania had at one time in a brilliant fashion, but which is lost now – we have a lot of work to do to restore it.


How big is the Romanian audience’s interest in the Wagnerian school, and what is the age group most interested in this kind of show?


We have Wagnerian fans of all ages. I am most interested in the young generation – 16 -25 years old, who are already familiar with the legends and myths of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and other, inspired by the myths and legends of the Wagner operas – of course, Wagner’ s music is infinitely superior to the film music they know.


Surely the combination between “the best-known Romanian opera conductor in the world” plus “the George Enescu Philharmonic’s Orchestra and Choir” plus “great names of Romanian and foreign soloists, all on the same stage,” performing in “a historical monument hall” (unique in the world through its architecture and acoustics) will prove a recipe for guaranteed success. What does “Parsifal at the Romanian Athenaeum” still need in order to become a cultural and musical brand for Romania’s capital?


It is a re-balancing with many cultural trends, many of which are not very interesting or valuable. We are just trying to bring to the public and in the cultural life of this city, a very important part of world culture, as it was once common in the cultural and social fabric of the Romanian society.


 “Parsifal at the Romanian Athenaeum” is not a show for just one season, but a project that will not die out with the audience’s applauses at the end of the inaugural show, it entails a long-term cultural strategy. What are the benefits that this show will bring, in your opinion, to the future cultural profile of Bucharest but also of Romania in general?


Wagner is probably the most famous and talked about composer and artist of all time. His operas are a world unto themselves and create strong passions among the fans all over the world. I would be very happy to see Bucharest in the company of major cultural centers, based on the presentation of Wagner’s operas at the highest artistic level.


What other projects are you promoting through the Foundation you established in order to support young Romanian talents and the cultural act in general?


For the moment, this is the only project we have. Quite a few projects dedicated to the young generation of very talented Romanian musicians, had to be reworked for the simple reason that most of them have left the country – another widespread phenomenon in the Romanian culture, which does not portend well for the future and needs to be addressed.


Are you pleased with the way you collaborated with Romanian authorities in what concerns your future plans regarding the Foundation’s projects?


On the personal level, everyone has been very positive and helpful. On the official, bureaucratic level, things are very difficult, because we have a very heavy and antiquated legislation and too many rules, which practically suffocate creativity and initiative. Fortunately, people are very cooperative.


What chances do young Romanian talents have to make a name for themselves and to embrace a successful music career in contrast to the time when you were a young talent just starting out on the road to consecration?


They need to go abroad to study and learn how it is to be professional and disciplined, how much work is needed and the level at which they can become competitive. With only the education they receive in Romania, they do not have a chance abroad at this time. When I was a student, the school here was exceptional. With the education from Romania, I was instantly competitive in Brussels or New York or Salzburg – it was an enormous advantage. We need to return to that kind of competitiveness here.



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