A great cast makes this a mostly very good Parsifal
Parsifal is a truly wonderful opera, now in my top 3 of my favourite Wagners(the top 2 between Tristan Und Isolde and Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg). I do prefer the 1992 and 1993 performances(the 1982 Bayreuth performance is also worth watching especially for the cast) over this 1999 Bayreuth production, but this is mostly very good, with the only big let downs being the grossly miscalculated ending, which was sloppy and sentimental in my opinion, and some close ups do betray a very hokey-looking spear and chalice. However, the sets are mystic and timeless-looking especially the forest of the Grail Knight and the garden of the Flower-Maidens, and the costumes apart from the squires and knights in Act 1 are quite effective in their simplicity. The video directing is solid if occasionally a tad too cautious, and the sound is wonderful. Musically, the orchestral playing is luminous and full of radiance, and while the start of Act 2 just lacks the sinister edge it should due to the I feel too fast tempo I much admired the broadness of Giuseppe Sinoppoli's(who sadly died of a heart-attack two years later conducting Aida) conducting.
The performances are wonderful. I was especially taken by Hans Sotin's Gurnemanz and Linda Watson's Kundry. I loved Sotin's subtle performance in the same role in the 1982 Bayreuth production, but what impressed me even more so here was that he seems to have deepened his interpretation here, and his voice is of a slightly richer timbre. Watson's Kundry is sensual, impassioned and wild, not quite as good as Meier for the Met, and Baden-Baden, complete with a powerful, warm and remarkably steady voice. Poul Elming I had heard before as Tristan, Siegmund and Parsifal(under Barenboim in 1992), and I have to say I find him remarkable here in the title role. His voice is of a true Heldentenor to me, a ringing top with a baritonal hefty basic tone, not the straining and blustering I have heard from some tenors of Wagner lately(such as Jon Frederic West as Tristan under Mehta), and he brings a certain vulnerability and heroism to the role. Falk Struckmann is a very moving Amfortas, his scene in Act 3 is beautifully sung and full of pathos, while Matthias Holle is rock-solid as Titurel with his singing rich and his presence appropriately sephulcral. Ekkehard Wlaschiha impressed me so much as Alberich and Telmramund, as well as an outstanding Don Pizarro on record, but as Klingsor he isn't quite as good. The acting is impassioned and often menacing, and while the voice has its power still it's now not very pleasant with a rather dry and barking quality to it.
Still, although this is not the best Parsifal I've seen, it is a very good and worthy one. 7.5/10 Bethany Cox
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