A truly impressive Parsifal, with Meier and Salminen outstanding
Wagner's music I adore, at first I only appreciated it but now I can't get enough of it, finding it moving and thrilling at the same time. Parsifal is not my favourite of his(I prefer slightly Tristan and Meistersinger), but it is still a largely compelling work, symbolic and very powerful. This Parsifal I found very impressive. Is it definitive for me? Not quite. I do prefer the 1992 and 1993 productions, and I love the 1982 performance just as much. But it is definitely worthy, and better than the 1983 production, which was impressive and brilliantly sung and performed but exhausting and overly-symbolic.
This is not a Parsifal for everybody though. There are more beautiful-looking productions of Parsifal elsewhere, of the five Parsifals so far seen the 1982 production was by far the most beautiful and traditional visually. But I did not mind the production values here at all, it is stark and very minimal in settings but interesting especially with the realm of the grail. I enjoyed the Japanese and Chinese influences in the costuming as well. While occasionally static, the staging is imaginative, especially the thoughtful and intelligence direction of the chorus.
Musically it is just as thrilling as the music. The orchestra play with a splendid sound, always with heft, power yet with moments of pathos and sensitivity. Like with the 2006 Lohengrin, Kent Nagano's conducting occasionally is ponderous, but overall it is an empathetic and resourceful reading. The chorus are very well balanced, both the Knights and the Flower Maidens.
As for the singing and overall performances, exceptional throughout. But two really stood out, one being the Gurnemanz of Matti Salminen and the Kundry of Waltraud Meier. Salminen is not at his best vocally, but his Gurnemanz(a Wagnerian role performance to match his Hagen, Daland and King Marke) is still superb, very wise and subtle, like Sotin, Hines and Moll before him. Meier is the best Kundry on DVD, with a performance that is three-dimensional and altogether riveting. Again, vocally she's been better, but the intelligence and musicality just speaks volumes as does her power and tone colour.
The rest of the cast are just as effective though, with the genuinely malevolent Klingsor of Tom Fox, Thomas Hampson's moving Amfortas(even if I prefer Bernd Weikl vocally), Christopher Ventris' dignified Parsifal and the commanding, vocally resonant and reptile-like Titurel of Bjarni Thor Kristinsson. There was one touch I didn't like, which was the very end with Kundry, which I found confusing and overly-sentimental. Overall though, a recommended and impressive Parsifal. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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