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Opera in Outer Space Years ago it would have seemed impossible for me to imagine driving down a freeway to an unfinished

mall in California to see a performance of one of the world’s most complex operatic masterpieces. But that's just what happened on March 20 when an encore presentation of Richard Wagner's PARSIFAL was beamed in to the new Century Riverpark 16 in Oxnard as part of the Metropolitan Opera’s series of HD screenings. The opera is Wagner's last and most monumental work. And one of his most ambiguous. Probably only Mr. Freud himself could do justice to a plot that has confounded opera goers and directors since its premier in 1882. Based on a 13th-century epic poem, the story deals with the legend of the Holy Grail, and other Christian artifacts that, in Wagner's setting, end up in the keeping of a mysterious sect of noble knights. When the sacred spear of the crucifixtion is stolen and defiled it is up to the title character, Parsifal, a pure fool who wanders onto the scene, to laboriously retrieve it and restore the brotherhood. The current production, directed by François Girard, throws Wagner's original stage directions and settings way out the window. Updated to a post-apocalyptic future, this version might be called "Parsifal in Outer Space," as huge projections of shifting clouds and finally cosmic, 2001-like images loom over the desolate setting of the first and third acts. The second act, originally set in a magic garden of the evil sorcerer, Klingsor, is now played in a wound-like cavern where the cast is called upon to perform in a pool of blood. Literally - 16,000 galleons of the stuff according to the PR, an effect one review described as “obscene amounts of water and Red Dye No. 2.” As there is much reference to blood, sacred and otherwise, throughout the text, this is not inappropriate but nonetheless is probably not for the squeamish, particularly when the excellent HD cinematography brings you within inches of the messy sloshing about. I personally felt like I needed a shower when I staggered out of the theater at 12.30. (The performance began at 6.30 pm!) Reviews have been mixed but most lauded the production's cast and consummate musicality. Overall I found it a fascinating, if grueling, experience, as are most Wagner operas. And I look forward to the next season of screenings that will include ten less intimidating works.

Ross Care