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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly clinical production contrasts with warm musical performance
Richard Wagner's Parsifal is a work of supreme brilliance, the final work of a musical genius, the summation of his thoughts on what it means to be a human and to suffer. The challenges in how to present a work that is far from conventional and difficult to stage as a traditional opera makes it difficult however to pin it down to any one meaning. It's perhaps...
Published 2 months ago by Keris Nine

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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a disaster, saved by Kaufmann
Perhaps I was spoiled by seeing the Stefan Herheim production at Bayreuth in 2011 with Daniele Gatti conducting; watching this very different production (on Bluray) was both shocking and disappointing.

This production is long at 4 hours 26 minutes. The tempo is so different it seemed like a completely different work, apart from the music (which was so...
Published 11 months ago by D&D


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly clinical production contrasts with warm musical performance, 10 Nov. 2014
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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Richard Wagner's Parsifal is a work of supreme brilliance, the final work of a musical genius, the summation of his thoughts on what it means to be a human and to suffer. The challenges in how to present a work that is far from conventional and difficult to stage as a traditional opera makes it difficult however to pin it down to any one meaning. It's perhaps unreasonable then to expect anyone to have anything new to add to what is inherently great in itself, just that the work be allowed to weave its magic. As such, it's hard to find any fault with the Royal Opera House's 2013 production of Parsifal, but inevitably some parts fare better than others.

Knights of the Grail are there in name only in Stephen Landridge's abstract-modern production, all of them wearing immaculate grey suits rather than suits of armour. The staging is a little bit cold and clinical in this respect, Alison Chitty's symmetrical geometric stage design dominated by a large cube that serves principally as a hospital room for the bed where Amfortas was being looked after by concerned doctors. The use of lights and sometimes projections however also use the cube to reveal backstory elements in flash-frames and live-action slow motion. Nothing should overwhelm the senses more than the music or the expression in the singing in Parsifal, and every element here seemed well-judged to suggest and engage the audience rather than over-emphasise or impose a false reading.

Landridge's production continually engages with imagery that relates very closely to the original stage directions, but with a distinct twist that makes you re-examine what it all means. Most striking (and controversial) of all is the image of the Grail itself. There might be an inward rolling of the eyes when the cube opens up at the behest of the knights to reveal that the Grail is actually a child wearing nothing but a loin cloth, but the sense of a sacrificial act and the question of blood - both so vital to the underlying message of Parsifal - as well as the sheer pain of Amfortas's role as the keeper of the Grail, is unquestionably intensified when the ritual involves the actual cutting of the child and spilling his blood for the faithful. Such touches don't perhaps reveal any new vision for the work, but they certainly find a thought-provoking way to touch on the philosophical mysteries and the religious significance of the work without having to rely on over-used Christian imagery that has become detached from its original significance and meaning.

In terms of singing, Angela Denoke is extraordinary as Kundry. Kundry is evidently no ordinary woman but something mythical and superhuman, so it's a bit much to expect anyone to really embody this character to the extent that Wagner developed her but... well, there you go, Denoke is something of a phenomenon here. Pitch-perfect maybe not, but it's such a strong and committed performance, from a vital central role, that it anchors all the others - not that they aren't spectacular in their own right. Simon O'Neill might not quite have the character or the acting ability to lift Parsifal up to a similar level, but you can't really find any serious fault his singing or his unstinting commitment here. He holds firm and steady throughout, but finds near-impossible reserves to keep up a consistent level of performance across the almost four hours that the role of Parsifal calls for.

You know that you can rely on that level of professionalism and consistency from René Pape as Gurnemanz. he's particularly good in the third act as a shuffling near-broken knight who finds his long suffering and his faith have been rewarded. It's all there in those finely sung lines and Pape delivers them with self-contained dignity. Gerald Finley feels the pain as Amfortas, director Stephen Landridge working with this aspect of the work as the driving force for the stage conceptualisation. Finley's singing is as smooth, precise and as measured as his Hans Sachs for Glyndebourne, but perhaps just a little too calculated. The Royal Opera House's production is led from the pit by Antonio Pappano with attention to detail and with genuine feeling for the work's Good Friday message, ensuring that it touches upon and brings together every aspect of the transcendent beauty of Wagner's great masterpiece.

On Blu-ray, the clinical qualities of the production design are perhaps over-emphasised. The image quality in the High Definition transfer is however impressive, and it benefits considerably from the DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 mix that warmly expresses the detail and the beauty of the orchestral playing. The BD is a two-disc set, with Act I and II on disc one, and Act III on disc two. There are only a few short features on the discs - a 6-minute Introduction to Parsifal that takes into account the production and the characters, and a five-minute piano run through of a scene from Act II between Simon O'Neill and Antonio Pappano. The booklet explains the significance and the intent of Alison Chitty and Stephen Landridge's production design, and there's a fascinating essay by Lucy Beckett on the writing of Parsifal, with reference to Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th century text that serves as a basis of the libretto.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excruciatingly Beautiful, 22 April 2014
By 
P. S. JONES (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (Gatti) [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
I'm not going to quibble about modern productions, as it's always refreshing to see something like Parsifal not in pseudo Arthurian costume or classical European churchy settings. There's an interesting overview of how long conductors take to get through this score on Wikipedia, and whether it takes four or nearly five hours to perform I'm inclined to judge on quality, not quantity. And we can accept a setting for what it is, without feeling it's "relevant" to us.

There's certainly a bleak futuristic feel to this production which provides a hi-tech sci-fi atmosphere which I'm sure will impress people not familiar with opera; the periodic injection of colour is striking when it appears. Unlike some I just love the new world of projections and effects in operas especially from the Met; after years of watching singers strut about stages unable to act its refreshing to see Jonas Kaufmann, Katarina Dalayman, Rene Pape et al add a very 'filmic' dimension to the performance. And in support of them, I'd love to see a movie actor maintain something like 'anguish' or 'pity' for twenty minutes!

The projections for me do not intrude and add an amazing backdrop to some of the orchestral passages. Sometimes music is the only backdrop we need and although some modern productions are not entirely evident in their reasoning, a static feel often allows the music to speak for itself: an original intention of opera.

For such a mammoth piece I have to say I wasn't bored at any moment; I thought I would be. Dalayman is intense and allows us to share her internal portrayal, Kaufmann develops his character sympathetically and is as wonderful as ever, Mattei is gloriously lyrical; there are no embarrassing 'faux' emotions.

The landscape of Acts 1 and 3 is impressive - but maybe only because of the projections - and Act 2's cavernous space acted mostly in a real pool of blood-coloured water is effective. The bed makes sense! What doesn't make sense to me is the use of plastic stacking chairs. Please, can producers find something a bit more timeless for a timeless setting? It put me in mind of Richard Jones' Lohengrin and the formica table! The end of Act 2 was a little weak from an action point of view, for such a triumph in the story. The choreographic style in Act 2 I did find a little dated, but it was effective and clever to have the singers blend with the corps de ballet in the way they did.

The Met orchestra is powerful, thoughtfully and lovingly conducted by Gatti, and I didn't sense any loss of power like some reviewing the Blu-Ray have done. On DVD through a normal TV with good headphones, I found the climaxes positively cataclysmic.

One thing which can be said about this production is that the continuity is superb; the interview with Girard shows him to be unpretentious and quite humbled by the opera itself. From this, I accepted his interpretation alone.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly sung, but dull, 12 April 2014
By 
David Garrett (London) - See all my reviews
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I wonder how long it will be before one of the world’s major opera houses is brave enough to stage a totally “straight” version of Parsifal again? It seems to be more prone than just about any other opera (except maybe Tristan) to have indignities heaped upon it. The worst I have witnessed were a production in Stuttgart which had Parsifal and Titurel (yes, Titurel) running around naked, and one in Berlin where in the Act 1 “Mass” scene Amfortas pulled out his own liver which the knights then ate. So, compared to many productions I have seen, this one is mild indeed. Apart from the modern-dress costumes and the absence of scenery it’s pretty much as Wagner intended; there is, for example, a full complement of spears, grails and swans and no real “regie” concepts. Compared with a more hyperactive production such as Herheim’s at Bayreuth, I can see how some would consider it boring. However, if it’s an action-packed thriller you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong opera! The presentation on blu-ray doesn’t help. The stage picture is very murky throughout, presumably as the lighting scheme was designed for an audience sitting in the dark and no compensation was made for the filming. The booklet makes much of the dramatic moment in Act 1 where the stream running across the stage turns red at the entrance of Amfortas. Someone should have told the video director, because if I hadn’t read it in the booklet, I wouldn’t have noticed.

Overall, the performance feels very slow. The overall timing clocks in at 272 minutes, which is indeed slow – even the normally sluggish Levine managed 264, however, if anything it feels slower. I have most of the available DVDs or blu-rays of Parsifal and this is the slowest. A note to dacochrane – the “funerial” performance by Pappano with “dragging tempi” that you refer to was actually pretty much the same length as this, at 270. What I find really bizarre is that Gatti’s own performances at Bayreuth were among the fastest at a mere 250. What bothered me more was a certain smoothed-over quality, with the few big climaxes not really registering as they should. Again this was very different from my recollection of Gatti’s Bayreuth performances, where the climaxes were seismic. To me, the slow speed is most damaging in the more dramatic Act 2. For example, the coup-de-theatre moment when Kundry appears to Parsifal is robbed of its impact partly because the whole thing is so slow, but also because Kundry is already in full view before she starts to sing.

On the plus side, the quality of the singing is easily the best of any recent filmed version. Jonas Kaufmann proves once again that he is currently the finest tenor in the world in Germanic repertoire. Rene Pape has pretty much made the role of Gurnemanz his own in recent years – managing to bring the lengthy narrative passages to life like no-one else I’ve heard. I was a little apprehensive about Katarina Dalayman, having experienced her strained and squally Brunnhilde at the Met in 2012, but here she is superb.

I’ve given this four stars. I found that the slow speeds, the lack of real impact in the climaxes and the lack of very much going on onstage combined to make it all a bit dull. And one final complaint – I wish that the moronic Met audience could wait until the music has finished before they start clapping. At least in this production there weren’t any fancy sets for them to clap at, which is another irritating Met habit.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical production, 13 Jun. 2014
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T. Mantripp (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
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No doubt that Parsifal is a difficult opera. 4½ hours of quasi-religious twaddle. There is no way I would even consider putting my posterior through that in the theatre. It also contains some of Wagner's most beautiful music and this is a super production.

Rene Pape is a superb Gurnemanz and there isn't a bad performance in the whole cast but Jonas Kaufmann owns it. I was well aware of the quality of his voice but had not previously seen him in a production. By the standards of opera singers he can act. This is easily the best production of Parsifal I have seen on disc.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a disaster, saved by Kaufmann, 18 Feb. 2014
By 
D&D - See all my reviews
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Perhaps I was spoiled by seeing the Stefan Herheim production at Bayreuth in 2011 with Daniele Gatti conducting; watching this very different production (on Bluray) was both shocking and disappointing.

This production is long at 4 hours 26 minutes. The tempo is so different it seemed like a completely different work, apart from the music (which was so ponderously performed at times that I wondered what had caused such a catharsis). The long first act, a sluggish 1hr56" -- by contrast Herheim's was a much more appropriate 1hr41" - is particularly wearisome with Mr Gatti's conducting and the spartan set.

Also, it is set in a "post apocalyptic" world with basically modern costumes for men but (oddly) sackcloth for women. The sets are a lunar landscape in acts 1 and 3 with interesting if distracting backdrops, and a rather overly symbolic bloody chasm, with just a bed, for most of act 2.

The beauty of the Herheim production, which was nevertheless controversial and certainly not to everyone's taste, was that it was genuinely creative in its settings for each act. It is therefore highly regrettable that the recording of his 2012 Bayreuth production although broadcast on Arte and available on Youtube (in sadly poor quality) has been withheld for "legal reasons" and barring a change of heart or some common sense is unlikely to see the light of day again.

This cast is headed by the superb Jonas Kaufmann, with Evgeny Nikitin as Klingsor as the only other really good lead singer. The Met Orchestra performs well but in my view the production as a whole is well less than the sum of the parts and is thus most disappointing.

The producer Francois Girard, a French Canadian film director, has previously directed for Cirque du Soleil and has staged Siegfried for the Canadian Opera; this production first appeared in Lyon in 2012. In the programme book for the Met production he comments that his goal "is to engage a modern audience and to let this piece say things that matter without kidnapping it and throwing it into a new context, which I think is being done to Wagner too often". Unfortunately, I think that this sums up his approach only too well.

Opera is quite different from Film and I suspect Monsieur Girard may wish to reflect on this. His Emperor's new clothes are not visible to everyone!

[later note: I am aware Amazon readers don't like negative reviews. The more readers vote against negative reviews, the fewer honest reviews you will see.]
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime., 16 Jun. 2014
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Having read a number of negative reviews regarding this production I didn't purchase it, this was a big mistake on my behalf, but fortunately my wife included it as a surprise inclusion for my birthday package. I have now watched it through several times and to be honest, I don't get what some reviewers didn't like about the production. Parsifal isn't a swash-buckling, sparkling drama with show stopping arias - if that is what you are after, then you're in the wrong opera. This is a sublime music drama which has enthralled and mesmerised audiences from the moment of its composition and like the Ring, is a real life changing experience. I do believe that after witnessing a good production of this piece, you are never quite the same person again. You may scoff at my melodramatic allegories, but this is what Parsifal means to me - and I adore it.
The mix of religious symbolism totally works for me, after all isn't this how religions and religious orders evolved? There are things I wouldn't have done (the bed in a lake of blood in Klingsor's domain, for example), these are minor quibbles, however, because generally it well executed and visualised; and had me in tears as the final note fades. Incidentally, a small gripe here, why can't the Met audience wait until the music has faded away before applauding? Can you imagine that being tolerated in a German or British opera house?
Daniele Gatti's pacing isn't too slow for me, it is sublime; and the Metropolitan Opera Chorus are on superb form. One reviewer suggested that only two of the principals were up the mark, but I can't agree. I found them all excellent and totally committed. Rene Pape deserves special praise for his superb portrayal of Gurnemanz and I can see why audiences showered so much praise on Peter Mattei. Kundry too is well sung and portrayed by Katarina Dalayman - and while I am not as bowled over as some by Evgeny Nikitin's Klingsor, I can find nothing to critisise.
Then there is Jonas Kaufmann in the title role, what a wonderfully committed performance and what a fantastic singer - Parsifal could have been written for him. Whereas he is the superstar in this recording, he is also surrounded by a very strong cast, a very credible and thoughtful production and excellent conducting.
So, just in case you haven't guessed, I love this recording and if Parsifal's your piece, then I hope you do too. Reviewing is a subjective thing and there will be those that hate this realisation and some that love it - as the mixed bag of reviews indicate - I'm amongst the latter. To sum up in Parsifal's own words, "Oh supreme joy of this miracle!'
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best., 26 April 2014
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This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (Gatti) [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
I have two other versions of Parsifal on DVD. The one from Zurich I find unacceptable in its staging, the other, from Baden-Baden is on another plane. It recreates the ENO production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, enigmatic but gripping, and very well performed. But this new DVD, from the Metropolitan Opera of New York, is so good that even the Lehnhoff must bow to it.

The producer is the Canadian Francois Girard, and this production started life in Lyon. Here, the dream cast has been assembled, the decor has been expanded to fit the stage, and the result is both spectacular and reverent. By that I don't mean that the action is treated as a religious rite, but that the dramatic action inspires feeling of reverence for the music, the drama and the text. I don't count German among my languages, but the subtitles seem apt and helpful.

This is no literal staging of Wagner's scenario. The decor is almost abstract, using cloudscape projection and, in Act 3, an enormous moon, to hold the gaze. Nor is there any attempt at medievalism in the costumes. All except Kundry and the Flower-maidens wear modern clothes -suits for the knights, something a little less formal for Parsifal, long black dresses for female chorus. Even Klingsor wears a suit. One has got so used to, even tired of, this solution, but here it quickly became acceptable to me. Much is made of chorus grouping to suggest emotions, which may explain the presence of women among the Knights. The chorus members acquit themselves with honour from their various visual and vocal tasks.

Has there ever been a more convincingly youthful Parsifal than Jonas Kaufmann? On DVD, his facial expressions are so nuanced and moving that he could have created the role without actually singing! But he does sing, and with such beauty and variety of tone that I for one felt totally engaged with the character's evolution. Alongside him are three notable interpreters. Katerina Dalayman's Kundry is one of the best I've seen, and Rene Pape is outstanding as Gurnemanz. His voice sounds so fresh and his enunciation so keen that all danger of prosiness is avoided. The Amfortas is Peter Mattei. I had not heard this artist before, but now understand and agree with the high opinions many opera-lovers hold of his talents, dramatic as well as vocal. The suffering of Amfortas has never been so sharply conveyed, in my experience. Only the Klingsor seems a little conventional, both in his singing and his interpretation, but perhaps the producer didn't quite avoid the 'Dracula' stereotype.

So much of the triumph of the performance must be credited to Girard, but Daniele Gatti's reading of the score also deserves high praise. The music unfolds in a seamless sequence, without dragging or over-emphasis. A triumph for all concerned.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not a disaster but not a success either, 18 Jan. 2015
By 
Rohintan Mody (Cambridge, Cambridgeshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
Langridge's production is not a disaster, but it isn't a success either. As is the case with most modern productions, the religious symbolism is reduced to a minimum, and there is nothing hopeful or transcendent about the end either. Much the same could be said about the musical performance, not a disaster but not a success, as well. Pappano conducts Wagner as if it were Puccini. The sense of Klang and melos that a Knappertsbusch, Barenboim, or Goodall bring to this music is missing. O'Neil and Denoke are, again not a disaster, but neither are they a success. Pape is superb but is better heard and seen on the MET DVD with Gatti; he seems, understandably, uninvolved in this production. The star is Finlay who both sings wonderfully and brings out the pathos in Amfortas. Since the Herheim Bayreuth production was recorded but not issued, there are, in my opinion, no truly successful Parsifals on DVD/Blue Ray yet.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo Gatti!, 14 Feb. 2014
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I can't agree with the previous reviewer. There's not much about Parsifal that needs showy sets and colourful costumes or show-biz lighting effects. I saw this production when it was beamed live from the Met and I thought that the production completely complemented the brilliantly sung interpretation. I for one am totally looking forward to receiving my copy when it is released so that I can relive the experience in the comfort of my home. Peace to all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, 17 April 2014
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This item took forever to be released after first advertised. I am glad it finally came out. The music as conducted by Danielle Gatti was heavenly to listen to. Worth the purchase.
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Wagner: Parsifal (Gatti) [DVD] [2014]
Wagner: Parsifal (Gatti) [DVD] [2014] by François Girard (DVD - 2014)
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