Not a first choice, but astonishing nonetheless!,
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This review is from: Parsifal (Audio CD)
Parsifal has always been one of my favourite operas. I heard Karajan's DG version back in 1986 and have always considered it to be the best recording. Having heard the piece many times, both on disc and live, I approached this recording with some trepidation. Parsifal in Italian? And with a Russian bass as Gurnemanz? AND a 1950 RAI recording to boot! I need not have worried. From the opening bars I was both astonished and captivated. The remastering by Cetra is a triumph - not quite as good as listening to a contemporary Radio 3 broadcast but not that far off. Gui's conducting is hypnotic. The strings glow and there is never a dragging bar in the whole opera. The second act is particularly successful, played with great passion in the first part and suitable delicacy in the flower maidens' music. And Christoff is superb - a beautiful sound characterised with great feeling. Of course, the main draw for some will be Callas as Kundry. She only sang the role twice, and this recording is the only one of her performing Wagner. What can I say? She is quite literally incomparable, and, as far as I am concerned, this is one of her greatest performances of any opera, playing to her strengths in portraying pathos, anger and occasionally downright neurosis. Wonderful! In the other roles Rolando Panerai is brilliant if a little young sounding as Amfortas, Africo Baldelli is a uniquely lyrical Parsifal, and Giuseppe Modesti is the only letdown as far as I am concerned, being rather plain and under characterized. The performance is quite heavily cut, running to a mere 210 minutes, so caveat emptor in that respect. As a document of great singing, however, it is priceless and I cannot recommend it heartily enough to enthusiasts of Wagner performing tradition.