Parsifal

Giuseppe Sinopoli
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
Date/Location
6 – 13 July 1998
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
AmfortasFalk Struckmann
TiturelMatthias Hölle
GurnemanzHans Sotin
ParsifalPoul Elming
KlingsorEkkehard Wlaschiha
KundryLinda Watson
GralsritterRichard Brunner
Sándor Sólyom-Nagy
Stage directorWolfgang Wagner (1989)
Set designerWolfgang Wagner
TV directorHorant H. Hohlfeld
Gallery
Mostly Opera

It seems that with this release the Bayreuth Festival has concluded the release on DVD of previously recorded Bayreuth Festival productions. This present Parsifal release of Wolfgang Wagner´s production was filmed in 1998. The production itself premiered in 1989 and ran from 1989-2001. The preceding centenary Parsifal production by Götz Friedrich (1982) was not filmed, however the production preceding that production (1975) was also staged by Wolfgang Wagner and released on DVD (filmed in 1981). From a purely directorial point of view, the differences between these two productions are not staggering. 

Of Richard Wagner´s two grandsons, Wieland and Wolfgang, it was Wieland, who innovated post-war operatic productions with his “New Bayreuth” style of abstract, geometric stagings often involving “triangles of tension” between the characters. Wolfgang adhered more or less to the same principles, which have not been significantly renewed since Wielands death in 1966. Fully aware of his own limitations, Wolfgang however, facilitated the transformation of opera from static stagings into the present days dynamic theatre, by inviting several of his times most innovative/controversial stage directors to Bayreuth, such as Patrice Chéreau, Götz Friedrich and Harry Kupfer. One of his most controversial invitations was sent to Christof Schlingensief, who was responsible for the Parsifal production following the present one in Bayreuth 2004, which I had the luck tosee in 2007. Considering what came before, no wonder the audiences were outraged with by Schlingensief´s eclectical view of the work. 

Back to the present DVD, which is a re-re-re-staging of outdated “New Bayreuth” geometry and has not aged well with time. Danish tenor Poul Elming (Parsifal) once said in an interview, that when Wolfgang Wagner directed an opera he was not at all interested in practical issues, such as how the singers should move etc., but worked at “another level altogether” and more or less expected the singers to figure these things out themselves. Needless to say, this is not a good recipe for engaging theatre.

Linda Watson´s Kundry is caught in her prime, with a beautiful middle voice and nice projection, though not a natural actress, she probably was not helped by Wolfgang Wagner´s lack of directives. Poul Elming, whose Parsifal is already available with Barenboim and who is very much a physical singer does not fully come to his right here, whereas Falk Struckmann and Ekkehard Wlaschiha both are in super shape. Hans Sotin compares well with his previous Gurnemanz, with a sonorous bass, capable of infusing life into his longue monologues, in the operas biggest part.
Best is Giuseppe Sinopoli, with a relatively straightforward, though still expansive and beautiful reading. 

And trust me, as I have been there: To hear/see Parsifal in Bayreuth is an experience entirely unmatched. Written for the Bayreuth stage, the covered orchestra pit creates an entirely unique sound pattern, downplaying orchestral explosions for a more expansive crystalline sound. Hard to describe, but quite easy to identify, from DVD productions as well.

This release may primarily be of interest for those specifically interested in Bayreuth history and/or Richard Wagner´s work and/or Giuseppe Sinopoli and who plan on owning several versions of Parsifal. Barenboim´s version with HarryKupfer´s abstract sets still tops the list. For those wanting something more traditional, James Levine´s Met Opera version is not at all bad either.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Poul Elming: 4
Hans Sotin: 3-4
Linda Watson: 3-4
Ekkehard Wlaschiha: 4
Falk Struckmann: 4

Wolfgang Wagner: 2
Giuseppe Sinopoli: 4

Overall impression: 2

3 February 2013

classical.net

This Blu-ray disc from C Major is both a fascinating historical document and a first-rate performance of Parsifal. From a historical perspective it gives a unique insight into Wolfgang Wagner’s final Parsifal production and is one of the few testaments we have of Giuseppe’s Sinopoli as a Wagner conductor (the only other complete Wagner performances that I can find are a Flying Dutchman from 1998 and two Tannhäuser, one from Bayreuth). From a musical point of view, there is powerful conducting and some very good individual singing, in addition of course to the habitually high standards of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus. Overall this is a strong performance, and definitely one of the best available on Blu-ray.

Giuseppe Sinopoli succeeded James Levine as Bayreuth’s Parsifal conductor. Levine’s reign lasted from 1982 to 1993 (with Daniel Barenboim taking over for a year in 1987). Sinopoli conducted Parsifal for six years from 1994 through 1999. The staging by Wolfgang Wagner seen here made its first appearance under Levine in 1989. The performance seen here comes from 1998 and was released for the first time on DVD in May 2011. This review is of the Blu-ray, released in 2014.

Sinopoli’s conducting is expansive. The Prelude comes in at 13:47, which is slow but not super-slow. But the drama as a whole takes 4 hours 39 minutes, several minutes slower than Levine’s famously slow 1990 recording – and just a couple of minutes quicker by Toscanini’s 1931 Bayreuth performance. The Prelude to Act III show’s Sinopoli’s approach to good effect: it is measured, but not slow for the sake of slow. The tempi set the forward movement for Act III. Sinopoli’s conducting is commanding where it counts (particularly in the two great choral scenes in the outer acts) and he brings out many details of the score that remain buried in other performances. Each of the two transformation scenes is very effective. The Good Friday Music, in particular, flows naturally from the pacing of the act, rather than emerging as a set piece.

Wolfgang Wagner’s production is appealingly simple, clearly looking back to the Neue Bayreuth productions of the 1950s and 1960s. In Act I the forest is suggested by backdrop structures of stacked green polygons, which eventually part to make way for a vaguely Egyptian-looking Temple with a floor abstractly patterned in octagons. The patterned floor is a constant through the other two acts, and the abstract structures return for Act III. Variation comes with the lighting, which is used to very good effect (as in Wieland’s productions). In Act III the glowing grail casting a luminous red light on the costumes of the knights is particularly memorable.

There is one truly outstanding performance here – Falk Struckman’s Amfortas. Struckman captures Amfortas’s declining authority in Act I without making him seem decrepit and he certainly steals the show in Act III. Not only is he in very fine voice, he is the only member of the cast who could really be described as acting. The others typically stand and sing. In some cases they sing well. Hans Sotin is a magisterial Gurnemanz, with “Titurel der fromme held” approaching Hans Hotter’s level (helped by Sinopoli’s luminous conducting). Poul Elming portrays the boisterous and confused Act I Parsifal well. But although he sings powerfully in Acts II and IIII (particularly after baptizing Kundry) Parsifal doesn’t seem to have acquired much depth or wisdom. This is partly a problem of acting, but also reflects shortcomings in characterization. The same can be said of Linda Watson, here making her first Bayreuth appearance. She has a fine voice and sings well, but does not really get to grips with the complexities of the role. During the Parsifal-Kundry encounter in Act II the real drama takes place in the orchestra pit. Ekkehard Wlaschiha is a forceful Klingsor (despite wearing what looks rather like a Stanford PhD gown!) and Matthias Hölle’s off-stage Titurel is effective.

This performance is more than good, although not quite great. The Blu-ray picture is very impressive (despite the disclaimer on the box), as is the sound quality. This disc should be in every Parsifal enthusiast’s collection.

José Luis Bermúdez | Copyright © 2014

classical-cd-reviews.com

This Parsifal production is only 13 years old and yet it is already a piece of history, and an important one at that. The two most significant figures attached to the production, conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli and director Wolfgang Wagner, have both since died, and while the world of Wagner interpretation has certainly moved on, they are both giants of their era who did much to shape our perceptions of the great man’s music dramas.

The downside is that everything here feels very dated. The production is one of the last forays for Wolfgang Wagner’s “neo-Bayreuth” style, that viusal aesthetic where everyone wears chiffon robes in pastel shades and the scenery is all abstract and suggestive. All that was innovative in the 50s and 60s, and helped Bayreuth productions out of the rigid literalism that had held sway since Wagner himself was in charge. By the 90s it must have seemed nostalgic at best, an effort to cling on to a sense of apolitical abstraction as other houses began exploring the more unpleasant undercurrents of Wagner’s works.

The abstraction has certain values. Parsifal, more than any of Wagner’s other operas (with the possible exception of Tristan) is more about the music that the visuals, a balance that a lean production helps to maintain. In the first act, tall, irregular pillars in iridescent green represent the forest. When they are moved away, the stage becomes a simple shrine, with an octagonal alter at the centre surrounded by similarly shaped concentric figures in the floor. This serves the outer acts well, but is changed little for Klingsor’s castle in Act 2, which is disappointingly understated.

Wolfgang encourages a naturalistic acting style from his singers. Of course, throughout much of this opera there is very little for any of them to do apart from stand and sing. But even so, Hans Sotin makes a compassionate Gurnemanz, Linda Watson a fascinatingly troubled Kundry and Poul Elming an appropriately naïve Parsifal. Their voices are all equal to Wagner’s many challenges, and while the cast is equally competent in terms of the vocal performances, there are few star turns. Sotin has a good range of timbres to express Gurnemanz’ various emotions, and also to keep his long narratives in Act 1 interesting. His voice lacks weight in the bottom register though, and also precision at the top. Elming has all the notes for Parsifal. He doesn’t sound like a traditional heldentenor, his voice is more earthy and grounded. What his singing lacks in beauty, it makes up for in dramatic urgency. With Ekkahard Wlaschina as Klingsor, the reverse is true. His voice seems light, at least in comparison to the demands of the role. Otherwise he is fine, he just that he doesn’t sound as menacing as the part requires. Given the date, the sound quality is unexceptional, and it does none of these singers any justice. The orchestra sounds OK, although the string sound wanders disconcertingly between the two channels of the stereo mix. But everything on the stage sounds very distant, as if the only microphones were in the auditorium, and deep in the auditorium at that. The video direction, by Horant H. Hohlfeld, is appropriately conservative. There is no point in introducing distracting camera angles and editing in a piece, let alone a staging, as static as this. The three(ish) cameras are put to good use, and the restrained editing seems ideal for the staging.

Sinopoli was a controversial figure in his day, and this reading of Parsifal is likely to divide opinions as much as anything he did. Everything is very matter of fact. The Prelude, for example, starts at a slightly brisker pace than in most recordings, but then maintains that pace throughout, with little recognition of the shape of the music of the gravity of the climaxes. It is a disciplined reading, and that discipline certainly pays off in the orchestral playing, which is note perfect (if that even needs to be stated with the Bayreuth Orchestra) but is also very finely balanced. This allows for some real delicacy in much of the playing and in much of the singing.

If Sinopoli shows little interest in the dramatic shape of the individual phrases, that might be because he is saving it up for the main climaxes. Both musically and dramatically, the saving grace of this production, at least for me, is the staging of the grail rituals at the ends of the first and third acts. In both cases, a huge chorus gradually files onto the stage, and then sings magnificently, with warmth, precision and solemnity, and with every word crystal clear. Sinopoli carefully grades the ascent up to these focal points in the narrative, allowing them all the weight they need. On both occasions, the effect is crowned by the appearance of Falk Struckmann as Amfortas. He is just brilliant, the best Amfortas I have ever seen. Every moment he is projecting his burden of pain, both in his body language and in the tone of his voice. When he is on the stage, he completely steals the show. Wolfgang Wagner seems intent on keeping the staging as simple as possible so an not to detract from the singers. Struckmann more than any of his colleagues puts in a performance to repay the director’s trust.

Gavin Dixon | 31 May 2011

Gramophone

Collectors whose shelves groan with recordings of Wagner’s final music drama might be hoping that this one can safely be passed over: and until the middle of Act 2 I was expecting to suggest just that. There’s nothing wrong with the singing – and Falk Struckmann makes a particularly strong impression; also, the fact that Wolfgang Wagner’s production and design are characteristically traditional and unchallenging might actually be a plus point for many. But Sinopoli is not the most self-effacing of conductors and the production is not well conceived for filming. Subdued lighting, which can be fine in a darkened theatre where even the orchestra pit provides only a very minimal glow, turns murky in DVD format. And then there are the excessively balletic flower-maidens in Act 2.

It’s with their disappearance that everything changes. The long dialogue scene between Kundry and Parsifal is done with outstanding musical and dramatic conviction by Linda Watson and Poul Elming, while the absence of much in the way of background on the set means that the filming can focus on the singers more productively than has been possible up to that point. There are still moments of exaggeration in Sinopoli’s pacing of the long paragraphs but the singers can take the strain. I infer from the minimal information provided with the discs that filming took place (without an audience) over the week before the 1998 Bayreuth Festival began, and this helps to ensure a degree of freshness in Act 3 which is rarely evident in live performances.

This Act 3 is very fine indeed. Some visual brightness at last emerges, as the stylised forest blooms for Good Friday: Struckmann, Elming and the veteran Hans Sotin are all at their vocal best, while Sinopoli responds to the simplicity of the staging by letting the music speak with maximum expressiveness. Some will feel that the blandness of the production is reinforced by allowing both Kundry and Amfortas to survive at the end. But the second half of this Parsifal is one I would not want to be without.

Arnold Whittall

MusicWeb-International.com

The association of Parsifal with Bayreuth is closer than that of any other stage work and theatre. That alone makes this DVD worth considering. Great as are the audio only Parsifals from Bayreuth, especially those of Knappertsbusch, the surround sound of a DVD helps Wagner’s world come alive more vibrantly and transparently. Considering that Wagner wrote this Bühnenweihfestspielspecifically for Bayreuth, it’s important to take seriously the theatre’s special acoustic and the impact this has on the Parsifal sound.

  Unfortunately, this production came from something of a dark period in Bayreuth’s post-war history. Premiered in 1989, it dates from Wolfgang Wagner’s festival directorship, one which most critics regards as being, at best, a mixed success. Wolfgang’s greatest initiative was to bring outside directors into Bayreuth to enliven their productions, notably Götz Friedrich, Patrice Chéreau and Harry Kupfer. Unfortunately this served only to point up the inadequacies in Wolfgang’s own productions. He seemed doomed to make pale copies of his brother’s famed “New Bayreuth” style, but in a manner much less successful than Wieland’s. Wolfgang’s conception here is broadly traditional but without Wieland’s courageous innovation so that the overall impression is anachronistic and, most seriously, dull. The stage is kept fairly bare, though we see the grail as a chalice which glows at the right points, and Parsifal really does catch the spear at the end of Act 2. The grail kingdom in Acts 1 and 3, however, is suggested by a set of enormous green crystalline columns, more of a cubist emerald city than the magical forest. These rotate to form a stepped background for the grail temple, and Amfortas is given a table to sit at for the ceremony. There’s nothing offensive in any of this, but it falls between two stools: it doesn’t offer the radical interpretation so successfully given by Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s production on Opus Arte, and it doesn’t do the ultra-traditional setting as successfully as Otto Schenk for the Met on DG. Consequently it will probably please no-one as a staging. Friedrich Spotts’ magisterial history of the Bayreuth Festival, essential reading for any Wagnerian, sums up this production succinctly by saying, “with no evident concept of staging or interpretation, it appeared that Wolfgang had run out of ideas.”

  This is made worse by his appallingly staid non-direction of the singers. For an enormous chunk of the staging the singers merely stand still and sing at one another. Some will find this a great blessing after bad experiences in other productions, but it makes many scenes pass far too slowly. The great Parsifal/Kundry duet, in particular, feels interminable, threatening to grind to a halt altogether. Furthermore, Amfortas does barely anything in his great Act 1 monologue in the temple. The knights do little but march in file, and the flower maiden scene just looks daft.

  Mercifully there are some redeeming features in the musical performances. Poul Emling’s Parsifal is a safe, four-square interpretation, almost irritatingly innocent in Act 1 but making the journey through to the Grail King of Act 3 very convincingly. Linda Watson’s voice is remarkably pure so that she doesn’t quite manage to be the seductress of Act 2, but she makes a beautiful sound. Hans Sotin booms his way through Gurnemanz with authority, though not much beauty in the Good Friday scene. Ekkehard Wlaschiha and Matthias Hölle are very successful, though Struckmann’s Amfortas is much too gritty: he may well convey the character’s agony but there are times when tonal intonation feels about to disappear entirely. He is far better heard on the Opus Arte DVD. The best thing about this DVD is Sinopoli’s conducting. He has a gift for uncovering the diaphanous transparency of this great score, and in his hands the music seems to shimmer in mid-air, though the weight of the Act 3 temple scene is hugely compelling. There are times when I wished he would keep things moving more effectively, but this is a worthy document to set alongside his Dutchman and Tannhäuser recordings for DG.

  On the whole, though, that’s not enough to recommend this DVD over the competition. In my experience the two most successful interpretations are those I mentioned above and, depending on your preference, you can probably enjoy either or both much more than this one.

Simon Thompson

classicalcdreview.com

It was a pleasant surprise to view this Parsifal from Bayreuth in July 1998. A rather traditional production, it shows respect and reverence to the composer and his music, totally free from the abominable productions of the past few years at Bayreuth. The latter debacles are the result of decisions made by Wolfgang Wagner’s daughters, Eva Wagner Pasquier and Katharina Wagner. Wolfgang was the son of Siegfried Wagner, who was the grandson of the composer. Wolfgang and his brother Wieland;Wolfgang directed the Festival for some years. Some of their productions were criticized, but nothing to compare with the hostility in the operatic world to productions by the two sisters. Wolfgang directed this Parsifal, and he has a superb cast. Giuseppe Sinopoli was a favorite at Bayreuth, and his conducting of Parsifal was universally praised. Lighting is beautifully accomplished and the scene with the flower maidens is lovely indeed. Video director Horant H. Hohlfeld usually has the camera in the right place, and the audio captures the rich acoustics of the venue. Surely one of the finest Parsifals on DVD.

R.E.B | July 2014

der-neue-merker.eu

Giuseppe Sinopoli musste nicht erst sterben, dass man wusste, was man an ihm hat. Und noch heute geht dieses ungeheuer sensible, intelligente, so strukturiert dirigierende musikalische Multitalent vielen Musikfreunden ab. Sein Bayreuther „Parsifal“, der stellenweise irisierenden, quasi minimalistischen Sog erzeugt, wo Pastoses nie pathetisch wird, ist ein Markstein in der Festspielgeschichte. Ein Glück, die Aufführung jetzt auf DVD zu besitzen.

Zumal die Inszenierung von Wolfgang Wagner nicht annähernd so schlecht ist, wie man es dem langjährigen Herrn des Grünen Hügels gern pauschal für alle seine Arbeiten nachsagte.

Bedenkt man, dass diese Inszenierung von 1989 stammte (im Jahr der Aufzeichnung lief sie schon im zehnten Jahr), dann trennt uns fast ein Vierteljahrhundert davon: Zwischen dem „Parsifal“ von Wieland Wagner über Christoph Schlingensief zu Stefan Herheim liegt der Wandel Bayreuths von Wolfgang zu Katharina, von der Klassik der durchaus eleganten Stilisierung (Götz Friedrich hatte da zwischendurch einen raueren Ton eingebracht, bevor Wolfgang wieder übernahm) zur großflächigen, bilderreichen heutigen Auseinandersetzung.

Sicher hatte Wolfgang Wagner noch das reserve-christliche Weihespiel im Sinn, der Gral erscheint als modifizierter Kelch immer wieder, aber auf der Bühne sah man,  was damals für abstrahiert erachtet wurde – Bäume wie Skulpturen, eine Gralswelt mit eckigen Elementen (statt jenen Rundbögen, die sonst für Rittertum stehen), im 2. Akt gibt es expressionistische Treppenelemente.  Die Blumenmädchen allerdings hopsen und winken in Rosa so, wie man sich die Verführerinnen zu Wagners Zeiten wohl vorgestellt hat. Im übrigen waltet ein gemessener Chor, es herrscht ein ritualisierter Bewegungskanon, eine symbolische Farbgebung (Klingsor in giftigem Lila), aber im großen und ganzen ist das weder dumm noch schlecht, sondern eine ansprechende, wenn auch nicht herausfordernde Umsetzung.

Hier können sich die Sänger als Darsteller klassischen Zuschnitts bewähren. 14 Jahre nach der Aufzeichnung sind nur noch zwei der Hauptrollen-Interpreten voll aktiv: Linda Watson singt noch immer Kundry und Wagner-Heroinnen, Falk Struckmann ist noch immer allerorten Amfortas. Hans Sotin hat sich in den dazwischen liegenden Jahren auf konservative Festivals wie Wels zurückgezogen und wurde dort zuletzt bei seinem ultimativen Abschied verdient groß gefeiert – er war auch ein großer Gurnemanz. Matthias Hölle gibt noch gelegentlich den Titurel, Ekkehard Wlaschiha, der ein eindrucksvoller Klingsor war, ist mittlerweile Mitte 70 und hat sich zurückgezogen, und für den einstigen Parsifal Poul Elming reicht es gerade noch für Puccini-Nebenrollen. Sic transit… Doch damals gaben sie alle zusammen eine gute, geschlossene Besetzung.

Übrigens: Es heißt doch, dass es eine sichere Aufstiegschance bedeuten würde, als Blumenmädchen im Bayreuther „Parsifal“ mitzuwirken (so wie mancher später bekannte Schauspieler in der Tischgesellschaft des „Jedermann“ dabei gewesen sein will): In diesem Fall hat sich das nicht bewahrheitet, kein einziger Name lässt aufhorchen.

Ein „Parsifal“ wie dieser, musikalisch vom Dirigenten her wirklich besonders, ist szenisch vermutlich allerbestens geeignet, für Einsteiger als Grundlageninformation zu dienen: Nur wer das Werk so unverschnörkselt kennt, kann dann auch die Gedanken würdigen, die spätere Regisseure daran knüpfen.

Renate Wagner

tutti-magazine.fr

À l’heure où le changement souffle sur le Festival de Bayreuth et où l’on peut visionner les productions audacieuses de metteurs en scène innovants tels la Tétralogie de Carlus Padrissa à Valence ou le Tannhauser de Kasper Holten à Copenhague, il est légitime de se pencher sur les productions réalisées il y a peu d’années par Wolfgang Wagner, petit-fils du compositeur décédé en 2010. L’occasion se présente donc avec ce Parsifal enregistré en 1998.

Bien loin du cycle de la Tétralogie qui l’a précédé, Parsifal, dernier opéra de Richard Wagner, a été conçu comme un drame sacré. Dans cet opéra, la mythologie fait place à la légende médiévale revisitée et réinterprétée, dénuée d’action complexe ou mouvementée. Le statisme de l’intrigue contraste avec une musique exceptionnelle de finesse, riche de sonorités inédites, sommet en quelque sorte de la production de toute une vie.

Cette synthèse stylistique demande un chef de premier ordre. Or, l’on sait l’amour du chef italien Giuseppe Sinopoli pour la musique germanique en général. Trois ans avant de décéder en dirigeant l’Acte III d’Aïda, habitué de la colline de Bayreuth, il y conduit son Parsifal qui connaît enfin les honneurs du DVD.

Giuseppe Sinopoli travaille beaucoup sur le contraste, et produit une qualité de son au service d’une lecture fortement personnelle des partitions dirigées. Un tempérament éloigné de la standardisation, de la frilosité ou de la routine de certains de ses confrères, surtout en matière d’opéra. Par conséquent, il donne vie avec excellence à ce Parsifal qui, eu égard à sa longueur, ne supporte aucune médiocrité et offre à ses chanteurs l’occasion de magnifier leur voix.

  L’ensemble de la distribution se montre digne d’éloges. Poul Elming troque sa voix de baryton contre celle de ténor héroïque. Le timbre légèrement métallique du chanteur danois ne nuit aucunement à la qualité globale de la prestation, et l’on sent une ressource indéniable dans l’émission qui vient peut-être de son ancien registre. Sa grande taille, son visage aux yeux bleus et ses cheveux blonds bouclés en font presque le prototype physique de l’idéal héros germanique Parsifal. Seul rôle féminin, il est intéressant de comparer Linda Watson au début de sa carrière à Bayreuth avec sa Brunnhilde de 2010 sous la direction de Christian Thielemann. Elle nous avait alors laissé assez indifférent par un chant correct mais difficilement incarné. Or sa Kundry bénéficie d’une vraie présence. Malgré un personnage à la double nature d’être maudit et de femme fatale enchanteresse périlleux à mettre en scène, la beauté de sa voix de mezzo-soprano dramatique comble tous les espoirs. Puissance, physique imposant et noblesse du maintien assortie d’un chant égal sans vibrato, elle fait face à ses partenaires avec beaucoup de présence. Hans Sotin impose une basse de choix en un Gurnemanz rempli de sagesse, merveilleux conteur dans son long monologue de l’Acte I. Sa carrure phénoménale, toute en sûreté, en fait un partenaire physique et vocal redoutable. Falk Struckmann possède lui aussi la voix idéale de baryton-basse pour chanter le roi malade Amfortas. Son allure christique émaciée crédibilise totalement son personnage. Enfin, le baryton Ekkehard Wlaschiba (Klingsor) assure à l’Acte II une belle confrontation avec Kundry en tant que chevalier honni et maléfique.

Les chœurs ont un rôle majeur dans Parsifal, et le Chor der Bayreuther Festspiele s’avère parfait dans les scènes collectives à l’aspect processionnel et religieux, tout en finesse ou en puissance contrôlée.

Wolfgang Wagner remplit pour cette production le double rôle de metteur en scène et de décorateur. Il a repris de son frère Wieland le style minimaliste et symbolique qui a tranché volontairement avec les précédents réalistes, historiques et nationalistes surchargés de l’époque suivant la mort de Richard Wagner. Il y a dans son travail, une certaine continuité avec ces époques révolues, mais moins abstruse, ce qui ne l’empêche pas d’arborer par moments dans ce Parsifal armures et accessoires médiévaux, mais ceci sans lourdeur. Les lumières créent les ambiances – vert émeraude, bleu nuit ou rose – et transforment certains moments en une chorégraphie de couleurs de toute beauté, notamment avec les filles-fleurs de l’Acte II. Les décors se cantonnent aux parois en des éléments stylisés en harmonie avec les ambiances lumineuses. Le sol dessiné en lignes labyrinthiques renforce cette géométrie où l’obsession de la symétrie domine l’ensemble. Les chorégraphies réunissant les chœurs sont particulièrement belles et intenses, allant de ce fait à la rencontre de la thématique du sacré.

Ce Parsifal propose donc un plateau vocal homogène doué d’une belle présence scénique, accompagné avec caractère par un Sinopoli inspiré. Il peut également constituer un témoignage tardif d’une époque révolue, surtout en matière de mise en scène.

Note générale: 9/10

Nicolas Mesnier-Nature

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Remarks
Also available as live broadcast from the same year with Andreas Schmidt as Amfortas.