Wagner - Parsifal (2007) [DVD9 NTSC] (Jerusalem, Stein)
Siegfried Jerusalem ? Eva Randova ? Bernd Weikl
Hans Sotin ? Leif Roar ? Matti Salminen
Staged by Wolfgang Wagner
Int. Release 02 Jul. 2007
2 DVD-VIDEO NTSC 0440 073 4328 9 GH 2
STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: DTS 5.1 ? Picture Format: 4:3
A production of UNITEL, Munich
Horst Stein conducts Wolfgang Wagnerís production of Parsifal at Bayreuth
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This Parsifal is conducted by the brilliant but little known Bayreuth\Wagner genius Horst Stein. Those familiar with Steins Die Meistersinger know to expect great things with this Parsifal, finally transferred to DVD-adding considerable quality to the old VHS. Stein, in both this and the Meistersinger(both traditional) is as unique and inspired as the Met\Levine versions are dull and boorish. Both are pseudo-traditional, which is why they make for good comparisons, as well as Jerusalems role as Parsifal and Weikl as Amfortas.
Lets begin with Gurnemanz. Hans Sotin does a marvelous job-On a personal level I adore Kurt Molls booming and uniquely cavernous voice best with Kubelik, second to only Hotter. But Moll sounds strained on the Levine CD and only slightly better on the DVD though Sotin is a far better actor. Most other aspects(with the possible exception of Kundry(Randova\Meier) of the Stein are superior to Levine. Jerusalem is in much better voice and as an actor(good knows we can barely call it that) but here he is much more believable and likeable and his voice still has the ability to oscillate without any stress(the last true heldentenor). Eva Randova is a good Kundry-though I am so tired of this character portrayed as nothing more than a writhing screaming "mime"esque thing we feel no pity or remorse for and can identify with even less. I have, to date, never been satified with any visual representation of her though on disc she has been well served.
Bernd Weikl has been the Amfortas of choice for over 25 years now and is in better voice with Stein-though no one will ever compare to the Phillips\KNA performance by London-though Morris was close-(just listen to the first phrase in praise of the morning-one of the most beautifully sung passages I have ever heard and an early inclination of how any interpretation will progress.
Bayreuth, of course, plays splendidly though actually the Levine Met of the early 90's were probaly better(that specific Bayreuth Orch had just dealt with significant changes and alterations and was still returning to form while the Met had become one of the most consistently reliable and flawless operatic orchs in the entire world-if not the best.
Most importantly, however, is how do the conductors fair?-and again, those who have heard Steins Meistersinger know what to expect-for those who havent-Stein is a Wagnerian of the first order-probably the best Bayreuthian no one has heard of. For those familiar with Levine, on the otherhand, know that his Wagner is very unpredictable in quality because it is so predictable. His Lohengrin is, in my opinion, excellent and his ring cycle is great besides hildegard behrens awful Brunnhilde and his Tannhauser is pretty good. However-they all have similar flws that are directly the fault of the conductor in terms of the flow, excitement, and feeling. I do not think anyone can argue though that he always produces a beautiful sound. But Levine conjues one of the most boorish and uninspired Parsifal DVDs I have heard. The tempos drag to almost unbearable speed, pushing the audience to its limit. This is one score that, though theoretically would seem to become "deeper" and more "profound" the slower it gets, but really it needs a natural impetus- a natural, springlike feel to make it succeed. There are moments that benefit from a introspective approach-though god help anyone who speeds through the Transformation music---but most vocal interaction benefits from a fluid approach.
Levine's CD is saved by an all-star cast(barely)I am a sucker for James Morris(amfortas) buttery inflection, but the DVD suffers because one must judge it entirely(visual as well as aural.)
In conclusion-this is the first choice of any Parsifal-especially for those who prefer a traditional approach. But also for seasoned Wagnerites who know the work. There is so much beauty to the performance and so much more drama it will stay with you for a long time. For those wanting a CD recommendation-I strongly urge you to buy the KNappertsbusch performance recently remastered or the Kubelik(with many similar cast members as both the stein and the Levine), or the Karajan, or Barenboim.
PLEASE GIVE AT LEAST WHAT YOU HAVE TAKEN
STAY IN SEED PLEASE
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