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The libretto, comes in a booklet form about the size of a theatre program with a red cover. On one page is Wagner's original text in German. On the facing page a translation by Stewart Robb which is lucid, and easy to match with Wagner's words. Ideal for getting to know the libretto. Alternatively, ideal for following some recordings which have not reproduced the text, e.g. at time of writing Barenboim's recording of Parsifal. The print quality is good, as is the paper, though perhaps a little big to stand on a standard bookshelf. A slightly smaller size would gave made it more portable, and easily stored, hence four stars rather than five. But all in all up to its job and this will enhance your enjoyment of the opera.
Contrary to a review published below, this is not a full score, although there are some musical excertps and leitmotifs quoted.
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There are five articles in Opera Guide no.34, as follows:
'A Very Human Epic' by Mike Ashman: a distinguished opera director, best known for his Wagner productions; these have included the WNO 'Ring' and 'Parsifal', the Norwegian Opera's 'Ring' and productions at Covent Garden. This essay provides an excellent introduction to Wagner's 'Parsifal'. It does however contain a few factual errors; in particular, Ashman is clearly out of his depth when he discusses Wagner's sources such as the 'Poetic Edda' (for the 'Ring') and Chretien de Troyes (for 'Parsifal').
This Guide was completed in 1986, and therefore it is understandable that the controversy that blew up around 'Parsifal' in the mid-1980's does not receive an adequate treatment here. The criticisms of Hartmut Zelinsky and Robert Gutman are mentioned, briefly, in a footnote at the end of Ashman's article.
'Recapitulation of a Lifetime' by Dieter Borchmeyer. I found this rather an eccentric take on 'Parsifal'. The author erroneously believes that the genesis of the work began in 1865; whereas Wagner recorded that the initial inspiration came in Marienbad in 1845 and the first sketch was written soon after Good Friday 1857. Borchmeyer also seems to be under the impression that Amfortas is meant to die at the end of 'Parsifal'; although this is a variant seen in many productions, it was not Wagner's idea. Etc.
'Experiencing Music and Imagery in Parsifal' by Robin Holloway: composer and professor of music in the University of Cambridge. In this fascinating article, Holloway identifies a "sonorous image cluster" at the core of the work. When so many articles about Wagner are leitmotif-fixated, it is refreshing to read an analysis of a Wagner score in which it is seen as an organic whole in which harmonic and melodic elements are inseparable.
'Parsifal: Words and Music' by Carolyn Abbate. An eccentric article (or is it an undergraduate essay?). The reader should refer to his score when Abbate does so, since she often misreads her score.
'Discursions into the Dramaturgy of Parsifal' by Gerd Rienäcker. I have no idea what this purple prose might be about! Rienäcker tells us that, at the end of act 2, Parsifal 'sets off into the wilderness with no idea where he is going'. On the contrary, Parsifal knows *exactly* where he is going; he just does not know how to get there.
There is also a useful 'Thematic Guide' by Lionel Friend, which contains 69 musical examples, some of which might be called 'leitmotiven'. He omits at least one of importance: Newman's 'Atonement'. Both the libretto and some of the articles refer to these musical examples by their numbers.
On balance, I can recommend this book as an introduction to 'Parsifal'. Even though I would have preferred it without a couple of the essays.