Human flesh is on the menu and shirts are nowhere to be seen. Yes, details are emerging of Calixto Bieito's new production of Parsifal, which premieres on 28 March in Stuttgart.
"Apocalyptic sentiment and questions of meaning" are his main concerns. The setting is a society in material and spiritual collapse, inspired by Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road. "Designer Susanne Gschwender creates a destroyed landscape covered by ash, where a ruined motorway bridge is the only evidence of a bygone civilisation. Mercè Paloma provides the characters with an existential basic outfit: protection from heat, cold and pollution".
That's the konzept, but what is the reality?
"I'm tied to a spit and Kundry is sniffing my armpit," is how the American tenor Andrew Richards, who will play Parsifal, describes one of the rehearsal scenes in his fabulous and revealing blog, Opera Rocks. Bieito's staging, which "promises to be a very controversial telling" includes cannibalism and a flower maiden scene that made Richards feel "nearly unclean". The physicality means he "can hardly move each morning I wake up".
He may be shirtless, but at least, Richards promises, his pants stay on. His one word for the production? "Intense".