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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
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This review is from: Wagner: Parsifal (Gatti) [Blu-ray] [2014] (Blu-ray)
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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Apr 2014 00:56:16 BDT
Re "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."
Couldn't agree more. Can't someone ask the Met front of house to make an announcement as with mobile phones ??

Posted on 27 Apr 2014 11:01:25 BDT
I saw the broadcast of this performance and I must say that I agree with what you write. But you are way to generous with your star rating. I would have given it two stars because of Kaufmann, Pape and Dalayman. Gatti's extremely dull conducting ruins this performance even when having the likes of the artists mentioned. The production too makes this performance something to avoid. I am glad I haven't experienced the "Eurotrash" productions you mention but it is too bad that the Met is also going on that band wagon. I loved the production on the Levine DVD with Jerusalem, Moll and Meier, but Levine made the whole performance dull (I don't hate slow performances, though; my favorites on CD are those conducted by Knappertbusch.) But the singing was at least on par with this performance and despite Levine's dull conducting, it nowhere as dull as Gatti's here.
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