Parsifal

Fritz Stiedry
New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Date/Location
24 March 1956
Metropolitan Opera New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
AmfortasPaul Schöffler
TiturelNicola Moscona
GurnemanzOtto Edelmann
ParsifalSet Svanholm
KlingsorGerhard Pechner
KundryMargaret Harshaw
GralsritterAlbert Da Costa
Clifford Harvuot
Gallery
Reviews
Musical America

Projections and Unit Set in Restaged Parsifal

The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Wagner’s “Parsifal,” designed by Leo Kerz, with Herbert Graf as stage director and Fritz Stiedry as conductor, had its first performance on the afternoon of March 24. Although far from perfect, it marked a great advance over the previous old-fashioned, shabby sets and somewhat hidebound production. Musically speaking, “Parsifal” has always been a profound and beautiful experience during the years in which Mr. Stiedry has conducted it at the Metropolitan, and this performance was inspired and dedicated, on the part of both the singers and the orchestra.

By using a unit, horseshoe-shaped set, with projections for backgrounds, Mr. Kerz has brought the action forward on the stage, expedited scene changes, and added considerably to the illusion in some places. The Good Friday Spell is enhanced by lighting effects, and the business of Klingsor’s hurling of the spear and Parsifal’s catching it in mid-air no longer raises titters of laughter from the audience. Instead of stringing it on a wire, the producer simply has Klingsor raise it, ready to throw, darkens the stage, and then reveals Parsifal holding it, or rather another, exactly like it. The illusion is entirely successful.

On the debit side are the dank lake in Act I, which should look gleaming, pure and refreshing, and not like a scummy pond; the literalism of some of the projections, when light would have been sufficient to stimulate the imagination; and the terrible costumes of the Flower Maidens, which look like outfits for a cooking-class. But basically, Mr. Kerz is on the right track, and Mr. Graf has taken advantage of the new setting to simplify some of the action. It is a pity that Klingsor and Kundry have to stand a few paces from each other, with no illusion of tower, darkness, the depths of hell, and necromancy, but at least the changes to the Garden Scene and into ruin at the close of the act are far smoother and more convincing. The Garden Scene itself, except for the boulder or hummock on the stage left, is very handsome.

At this performance several of the artists were heard in their roles for the first time at the Metropolitan: Otto Edelmann as Gurnemanz; Sandra Warfield, as A Voice; Albert Da Costa and Clifford Harvuot, as the First and Second Knights of the Grail; and Vilma Georgiou, not merely in the scheduled role of the First Esquire, but also in the role of one of the Flower Maidens, as a last-minute substitute for Laurel Hurley who was indisposed.

Mr. Edelmann not only sang beautifully, but he brought to the role of Gurnemanz searching spiritual perception. To be a superb Baron Ochs and a distinguished Gurnemanz means true versatility and adaptability of temperament in an artist. Paul Schoeffler’s Amfortas was a living embodiment of anguish and remorse, and he was in excellent vocal form. Set Svanholm, fresher and more vibrant of voice than he was at his last visit, was amazingly youthful as Parsifal in Act I and made the later scenes deeply moving. He tired a bit, and sagged in pitch, towards the close, but this did not efface the impression of his vital singing through most of the opera.

Margaret Harshaw’s Kundry

Margaret Harshaw had improved her Kundry in delivery of text, plastique, and musical detail since last year, but this is still not one of her most successful achievements. In familiar roles were Nicola Moscona, as Titurel; Gerhard Pechner, as Klingsor; and Rosalind Elias, Paul Franke, and Gabor Carelli, as the Second, Third, and Fourth Esquires. Once again, the Flower Maidens (in spite of their unseductive, ugly dresses) sang very lustrously and seductively indeed, with Miss Georgiou, Maria Leone, Herta Glaz, Heidi Krall, and Margaret Roggero in the leading parts. Miss Harshaw, Mr. Svanholm, and Mr. Edelmann made the Good Friday scene (Act III, Scene 1) unusually poignant. The audience displayed a general intelligence, concentration, and respect for the music that made one realize with a shock how the average Metropolitan audience behaves, these days.

Robert Sabin | April 1956

Rating
(7/10)
User Rating
(3.5/5)
Media Type/Label
Gala, OOA
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Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 540 MByte (MP3)
Remarks
Matinee broadcast
A production by Herbert Graf (premiere)