François Girard‘s stunning post-apocalyptic production of Parsifal at The Metropolitan Opera trail-blazed the way for Wagner’s centennial year celebrations last year. Wagner's last and most intriguing opera, Parsifal centers on a young hero’s search for compassion, redemption, and acceptance in a world dominated by rules and fanaticism.
Parsifal (WWV 111) is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, a 13th-century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail (12 ?.). Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but did not finish it until twenty-five years later. It was to be Wagner's last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus. 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.
This is a most unusual 'Parsifal,' a live Rome performance, abridged and sung in Italian, originally broadcast in September of 1950. As dark a horse as it may appear to be, several factors make it compelling listening. One is the leadership of Vittorio Gui, an excellent opera conductor now best remembered for several fine Mozart recordings he made for EMI. While the music does seem to have a somewhat Latinate thrust, it works on its own terms, reminding one that despite the aura of spirituality and philosophy that hangs over the proceedings, this is still drama. Then there is the matter of the singers, with the great Russian bass Boris Christoff, firm and profound as Gurnemanz and soprano Maria Callas, here in her early prime, strong, sharp Read more and electrifying, as Kundry, each adding their spectacular (though not typically "Wagnerian") gifts to the mix. It's quite a stew.
The third issue in PentaTone's ambitious project to record ten mature Wagner operas by the time of the composer's bicentenary in 2013 proves to be the finest so far released. The live recording was made on April 8, 2011 in the Philharmonie, Berlin, with an exceptional international cast of soloists under the direction of Marek Janowski and the superb contribution of the Rundfunkchor, Berlin, a vital component in the success of this undertaking… From the opening bars of the Prelude one is struck by the luminous and pellucid sonic quality that the engineers have achieved. The ethereal string playing benefits from the unexpectedly spacious acoustic, and when the brass enter they are rich and weighty in tone. Janowski imparts a wonderful sense of purpose to the music and the clarity of execution that he achieves from his orchestra is remarkable.
A timelessly classical Parsifal from the 1998 Bayreuth Festival in a mystically poetic staging that exerts an unbroken fascination not least as a result of its expressive lighting effects. Under the direction of the great Wagner conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli, the four main roles are taken by Poul Elming, Linda Watson, Falk Struckmann and Hans Sotin - one of the strongest line-ups in Bayreuth´s more recent history. "Giuseppe Sinopoli coaxed an outstanding performance from the Festival Orchestra and Chorus, throwing light on the elaborate score from an agreeable distance and investing the music with a meditatively flowing quality rather than the usual bombast" (Opernglas)
Parsifal represents the culmination of Wagner’s work as a revolutionary composer of opera. In it he created a powerful allegory on the conflict between Christianity and paganism, good and evil, light and dark, physical passion and spiritual abstinence. This dramatic production by the brilliant German stage director Harry Kupfer marked Daniel Barenboim’s appointment as the artistic director of the Berlin State Opera in 1992. The cast is made up of the finest Wagnerian singers of the period, all of whom enjoyed substantial international careers. Barenboim’s superb conducting reveals Wagner’s multi-layered score in all its glory.
Most of the familiar orchestral versions of Richard Wagner’s operatic music were arranged either by him or his followers in the 19th century, so the Overture & Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser & the Prelude to Act III from Lohengrin have long been performed in these special concert formats. But the main work of this SACD is the 1993 suite arranged by Henk de Vlieger, Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest, which is a fresh adaptation of the key moments from Wagner’s final music drama. The work was commissioned by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, after de Vlieger, the ensemble’s percussionist, had successfully arranged music from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen into a similar orchestral vehicle for them. Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest was premiered on RCA in 1997 by Edo de Waart, & Neeme Järvi leads the 2nd recorded performance on this 2010 release on Chandos.