martes, 9 de octubre de 2018

Video review: Parsifal from the Metropolitan Opera, 1992

After having returned to present-day Bayreuth, I wanted to see the classic Parsifal from the Met, conducted by James Levine. This is one of the most important video versions of this masterpiece, with a splendid cast, an accomplished conductor and a classical staging. This production reminds us a way to do opera which is staying more and more in the past, even in the Met. From 2013, another and more modern production is on the repertory.

Otto Schenk, a classical wagnerian director, leads a scenical team with the accomplished Günther-Schneider Siemssen as set designer and Rolf Langenfass as costume designer, which delivers us to a a legendary time in Middle Age. This production could be dusty for many today operagoers used to modern and reflexive ones. But it pretends to show the story in its original background, trying to be as close as possible to Wagner's libretto indications. In this way, it could be necesary as a first aproximation to the work. Acting could be limited in this sense, but expressions and gestures appear not only to make singing easier but also to convey emotions sometimes ignored or replaced on regietheater.

For Act 1 we can see a painted landscape, with big trees and a set with a beautiful blue-toned landscape with trees and a pond. We see Amfortas being brought to the lake in a wooden stretcher, and all dressed like true medieval knights and esquires. The Grail scene takes place not in the romanic-sytle temple Wagner imagined but in a rocky, cave-like temple with a natural dome as skylight. In the middle is the table where the Grail is put, kept in an urn. The procession of knights entering is a moving and solemn moment. Amfortas discovers the  Grail and shining beams of light enter in the temple and the chalice becomes illuminated.

 Act 2 is maybe the finest recreation in the show. The first scene shows a tower in which Klingsor is looking with his magic mirror and observing a tormented Kundry. The garden is a beautiful scene, with a sunset sky in brown tone, and the flowers (not the soloists) in suggestive transparent costumes. When Parsifal has taken the Holy Spear from Klingsor the magic garden disappears and becomes a dark grey moor. Act 3 takes place in a spring landscape with a shining green grass full of flowers, and the entrance to the forest at both sides.

Thanks to Brian Large's camera artistry we can see the spectacular change of scenes, and the expressions of the singers matching with the music.

James Levine, as the great wagnerian conductor he is, gives an accomplished conduction of the Met orchestra, showing a complete command of the score, in slow tempi but in a beautiful style. We can appreciate on it the solemnity the work requires.  The chorus are also magnificent.

The cast is maybe the best available in DVD. The singers know how to sing and perform Wagner.

Siegfried Jerusalem sings the title role. Maybe past his prime, he commands the character, portraying it with his good acting skills. The voice has its particular heldentenor tone but in the Amfortas! Die Wunde he gives a terrific dramatic performance of the aria. In Act 3 he sounds solemn and heroical.

Kurt Moll sings an authoritative and big-voiced Gurnemanz. Bernd Weikl is a tormented Amfortas. His acting is convincing but vocally has some ups and downs in his Act 1 monologue, but his performance is moving anyway. His expressions of anger and tireness are impressive. Jan-Hendrik Rootering has a nice dark-bass voice for his Titurel.

The veteran Franz Mazura is still able to sing an unforgettable Klingsor, and to show why he is a reference in this role. The voice is still good despite some signs of decay, but this are solved with his acting skills, showing a creepy villain, with horryfing expressions.

Waltraud Meier was 36 years old in this recording, and she was at her peak of her beauty and career. The voice has a beautiful and seductive mezzo-soprano sound with an attractive low register (Nur ruhe will ich) but highly enough to do soprano roles, as she started to do in early 1990s. High notes are perfectly projected and sung, and her diction is very dramatic (Da traf mich sein blick). Her acting is so accomplished that one can understood why she is regarded as a historical Kundry: her expressions of doubt and lack of certitude when she meets Parsifal for the first time, or her malevolent smile when Klingsor laments his castration or her lustful smile at seducting the hero. Supreme and unique.

The rest of supporting roles are at a good level, finding in the cast future stars as Paul Groves as a knight or Heidi Grant Murphy as Flower Maiden.

This performance is a classic of Parsifal discography for all the reasons mentioned in this post, and also it is an example of a way to do opera that shouldn't be discarded at all (despite it can be improved with our present technology) for its inmense beauty and faithfulness to Wagner's first intentions for the story and as a way to introduce ourselves for the first time in this marvellous opera.

My reviews are not professional and express only my opinions. As a non English native speaker I apologise for any mistake.
Most of the photographs are from the internet and belong to its authors. My use of them is only cultural.
Any reproduction of my text requires my permission. 

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