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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 15 November 2001
Given that most recordings of Parsifal are up in the £50 range, this bargain looks almost too good to be true. In fact this is a sublime version, with good sound for a live recording from 1950. We have here at least two of the very greatest singers of the 20th century: Maria Callas and Boris Christoff. The Rome RAI Orchestra is conducted by Vittorio Gui.
Two things that should be pointed out before you buy is that this version is sung IN ITALIAN, and that it contains sizeable cuts (thus allowing it to fit on only three discs). So if you are after a definitive German-language version, look elsewhere -- but as a performance on its own merits this is a recording which is worth many times its asking-price.
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on 9 March 2013
Please note that there seems to have been a problem with this review appearing on two Knappertsbuch recordings and this error which I have to say was not mine has upset a couple of Amazon customers. So I would like t emphasize that my review is of the Reginald Goodall WNO recording ....

Deryck Cooke, the author of the Language of Music and the completer of Mahler's 10th Symphony, once commented in the context of an article on Parsifal that Wagner's last masterpiece and indeed great art generally are not for people in a hurry. Certainly this recording of the work tests that hypothesis to its limit. Reginald Goodall an English conductor from the middle and late 20th century who was a Wagner specialist always took slow tempi. In the 1960s and early 1970s Goodall's English National Opera Ring Cycle and the subsequent EMI recordings were in stark contrast to the faster more urgent tempi set by Solti in his Royal Opera House productions and the DECCA studio recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Well here in this recording of Parsifal the tempi are very slow indeed. Statistics are of limited value I know but here is a comparative list of the length of the performances of some well known recordings of Parsifal available now:

Solti and VPO 4:20:00
Thielemann and VPO 4:02:00
Karajan and BPO 4:15:00
Knappertsbusch Bayreuth 4:10:00
James Levine Met Opera 4:27:00

and Goodall with the Welsh National Opera? 4:44:07

So Amazon customers contemplating buying this recording need to be aware that Goodall's interpretation is strong on drawing out the beauties of the music to their full extent but that there is cost in that the interpretation does lose dramatic focus. Goodall's performances for ENO of the Meistersinger and the Ring retained dramatic focus. I think the WNO Tristan (not currently available) was also the right side of the line but with this WNO Parsifal from circa 1984 I sense that too much of the dramatic structure is lost in favour of savouring the sensual beauty of the music. At the end of the day it is a matter of personal choice. Anyone buying this recording will be delighted by the beauty that Goodall draws out of Wagner's score which Debussey described in a very happy phrase as being "illuminated from within". However I doubt very much if lover of Wagner's music would want this to be the only Parsifal in their collection. This is a recording to buy and listen to if you are looking for a contrast to the more mainstream interpretations available.

The line up of soloists is not to be sniffed at. Phillip Joll turns in a good performance as Amfortas. Donald MacIntyre's Gurnamanz is rich and warm and we have a young Waltraud Meier at the start of a long and very distinguished series of recordings of the role of Kundry. Warren Ellsworth who seems to have recorded very little is a perfectly serviceable Parsifal although I doubt he would be anyone's favourite.

The Chorus and Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera at this time were about the best around in the UK. The playing and the singing are of a very high standard even if perhaps not matching their counterparts in Berlin and Vienna.

If you already have a recording of Parsifal but find yourself curious to hear a different approach to this glorious and towering masterpiece then do try this recording by Goodall and the WNO. There are passages that are quite ravishingly beautiful and are unequaled by the rival versions and I think it is this aspect of the recording that has kept it in the stores and available for purchase on line for so long when as an overall experience it doesn't match the best of the rest.

I doubt if any Amazon customers reading this need a recommendation concerning the work itself. Parsifal is one of the greatest achievements of human creativity. Music of breathtaking beauty in the service of a sublime message of compassion and selfless love. Just to listen to the Prelude is to be reminded of the very best that the human race can offer.
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It does one good to unbend a little. I used to be such a Wagner purist. Live, in German, preferably from Bayreuth, or count me out. Now I find myself buying studio recordings and even in Italian rather than German. The main reason for doing so on this occasion is the opportunity it affords one to hear two or three legendary voices in unexpected repetoire.

Maria Callas singing Kundry
Boris Christoff singing Gurnemanz
Rolando Panerai singing Amfortas

The young Maria is as passionate and intense you would expect and she makes more of Kundry's tiny contribution to the third act ("Serva sono") than most do. Christoff is a mighty voice for Gurnemanz, only a tad bellowy, and perhaps the numerous cuts save him from becoming overpowering. Callas' temptation in Act 2 is slightly cut as well, which is a pity. Baldelli, as Parsifal, isn't really an heroic tenor but satisfactory and a good choice for conveying the character's youth.

This live-studio recording provides a truly 'operatic' Parsifal - lighter, faster-moving, pruned here and there to get it down to 3.5 hrs rather than the usual 4.5. Hearing it Italian, you might say a silkier language, makes for such an estranging experience that I for one couldn't help but treat it as a special case and of course it only works as an adjunct to one of the great German recordings. The overall effect is somewhat melodramatic and Vittorio Gui's lively direction doesn't even approach the gravitas, the high seriousness of a Knappertsbusch. I've always considered it a mistake to call Parsifal an 'opera' for in truth it is in no sense an entertainment; a misapprehension that has led to the jokes about its great length. Having said that, Gui isn't alone in zipping through the score - Krauss (1953) and Boulez (1970?) are also brisk, and that was at Bayreuth.

Admirers of Callas and Christoff and those who've tried and been overpowered by Parsifal uncut would do well to get a copy of this molto mosso Italian production which engages with the work without, you might think, mistaking its religiosity for actual religion. Having said that, it is not as spiritual or as moving an experience as any of the great Knappertsbusch broadcasts.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 23 January 2011
While I am not seriously proposing that this should be your principal recording of "Parsifal", there are still a number of advantages to owning it - indeed I treasure it for a number of reasons, not least for the beauty of four great voices bringing a special evenness and sonority to Wagner sung in Italian.

It is quite heavily cut and but there is an Italian libretto in this Verona edition showing where these cuts have been made. I suggest buying this as a supplement to your main set - perhaps the Kubelik, Karajan or Krauss versions. The sound is clean, thin mono, very listenable. The RAI orchestra plays far better for Gui here than it did for Fürtwängler in his "Ring" three years later and Gui displays a real feeling for maintaining the shape of Wagner's grand and sombre line.

Helping him to do so are some seriously legendary singers, not least Maria Callas early in her career bringing an animal passion to Kundry of a kind scarcely heard anywhere else and she is here of course in finest vocal estate. Boris Christoff brings grave authority, smooth tone and sustained legato to the role of Gurnemanz; contrary to the assertion of another reviewer, he by no means roars his way through the part but often sings in that inimitably tender Christoff mezza voce. A very young Rolando Panerai is both febrile and vocally commanding (after a rocky, nervous start) as Amfortas, and a surprise is in store for the uninitiated when they hear the virile, gleaming tenor of Africo Baldelli, who gives us a portrait of Parsifal involving both psychological insight and vocal heft.

Wagner himself would not have minded hearing his opera in Italian - it sometimes sounds surprisingly graceful in that language - and would probably have put up with the cuts as long as he got paid. If you can find this broadcast on offer at reasonable cost, it provides a fascinating and rewarding insight into the adaptability of Wagner's most profound work.
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on 4 October 2013
The singers, orchestra and performance are superb BUT some technician has decided to alter the original recording sound. I downloaded some MP3 tracks a year ago and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the sound. Unfortunately the joins between the tracks were poor so I decided to buy the 4 CDs. As soon as I began to listen to the opening I felt the sound was 'bare'. I then played the album and compared it to my downloads (which was easy as I have a twin CD player). The sound was so different. The CD's acoustic was 'dry'; the balance of the singer(s)/orchestra had been changed. The 'ambience' had disappeared. It was as if a 'photoshop' technician had looked at a 'Monet painting' and decided that the the irregular edges needed corrected delineation, changed the colours to simpler ones and rearranged the objects in the painting. A small label had been attached to the 'box cover' stating that the recording had been changed by some quite complex digital process. I wish they had left it alone. I have now downloaded the MP3 version (with its faulty joins as I realized I would never listen to the CDs) and returned the CDs to Amazon who have been very co-operative in dealing with my complaint. I do not know when this 'latest' version appeared but you have been warned.
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on 6 May 2016
A fantastic recording well worth exploring
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on 7 December 2013
I saw a production of Parsifal at Covent Garden 30/11/12. It was wonderful.
I bought this on recommendation, and it is a wonder of an opera.
Astonishingly well sung-emotional and at times melancholic; but a real joy (it does help to get to terms with the narrative)
If you are new to Wagner,it can be complex at times-but for myself that was part of the real joy in getting to know to. I now 'get it.
I yhotoughly recommend it.
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on 6 March 2013
I am used to extracts from Wagner's opera's in the form of "bleeding chunks". It is so difficult, or impossible, to extract parts that will stand alone. In this case, the chunks aren't even faded in and out: each one just starts and finishes very abruptly and not at any sensible break point. Was the CD really produced like this? However, these extracts are extremely well sung and Barenboim is, as usual, totally at home with Wagner. First class recording too. Wish I could afford the complete opera!
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on 16 February 2011
Caveat Emptor - most of these tracks are 'clipped'; and carried on to the start of the next tracks. This causes seemingly "drop-outs" on the tracks and really is not acceptable
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on 24 January 2013
Personen / cast: Amfortas: George London (Bariton / baritone) - Titurel: Arnold van Mill (Bass / bass) - Gurnemanz: Ludwig Weber (Bass / bass) - Parsifal: Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor / tenor) - Klingsor: Hermann Uhde (Bass / bass) - Kundry: Martha Mödl (Sopran / soprano) - 1. Gralsritter / 1st Knight of the Grail: Walther Fritz (Tenor / tenor) - 2. Gralsritter/ 2nd Knight of the Grail: Werner Faulhaber (Bass / bass) - 1. Knappe / 1st Esquire: Hanna Ludwig (Sopran / soprano) - 2. Knappe/ 2nd Esquire: Elfriede Wild (Alt / contralto) - 3. Knappe / 3rd Esquire: Günther Baldauf (Tenor / tenor) - 4. Knappe / 4th Esquire: Gerhard Stolze (Tenor / tenor) - Blumenmädchen, 1. Gruppe / Flower Maidens, 1st Group: Hildegard Schünemann, Erika Zimmermann, Hanna Ludwig (Sopran / soprano) - 2. Gruppe / 2nd Group: Paula Brivkalne, Maria Lacorn, Elfriede Wild (Mezzo-Sopran, Alt / mezzo-soprano, contralto) - Stimme aus der Höhe / Voice from above: Ruth Sievert (Alt / contralto) - Chor / chorus: Die Bruderschaft der Gralsritter, Jünglinge und Knaben / The Brotherhood of the Knights of the Grail, Youths and Boys - Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
- Hans Knappertsbusch, Dirigent / conductor - aufg. / recorded in: 1951
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