Gabor Ötvös
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice di Venezia
March 2005
Teatro La Fenice Venezia
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
AmfortasWolfgang Schöne
TiturelUlrich Dünnebach
GurnemanzMatthias Hölle
ParsifalRichard Decker
KlingsorMikolaj Zalasinski
KundryDoris Soffel
GralsritterIorio Zennaro
Federico Sacchi
Stage directorDenis Krief
Set designerDenis Krief
TV directorTiziano Mancini

Taped live in Venice’s La Fenice in March, 2005, this performance is noteworthy for its smooth orchestral playing and fleet tempos (237 minutes as opposed to Solti’s 250 and Kubelik’s 252, not to mention Knappertsbusch’s almost 260) as well as for the stunning, heart-felt, beautifully sung Kundry of Doris Soffel and the handsome third-act Parsifal of tenor Richard Decker, a name new to me. In the first two acts he’s expressive and intelligent but somewhat hoarse; in the third (taped on a different evening?) he’s sensitive to all of Wagner’s markings and is moving, musical, and good to listen to.

Matthias Hölle’s Gurnemanz is appropriately world-weary, but his voice is somewhat tattered and there are times when he seems he may not make the notes. The same might be said for Wolfgang Schöne’s Amfortas, who really does sound half dead. The Klingsor of Mikolaj Zalasinski is powerful and nasty, and the Flower Maidens, et al., are just fine.

We can only be amazed at the lack of spirituality conductor Gabor Ötvös brings to the score; I believe he was a last-minute replacement, but that still does not forgive the matter-of-factness with which he puts the music across. The choral moments, though clearly well-rehearsed, sound like Humperdinck, and there’s nary a chill-down-the-spine in reach. We all love a quick tempo, but in this performance you can practically hear the players racing to catch their water taxis home. It equals a big nothing, sadly. The recorded sound has little presence. Stay with Kubelik (Arts).

Artistic Quality: 5
Sound Quality: 7

Robert Levine

Having established itself as a resource for those with an interest in the rarer corners of the repertory, Dynamic here makes a creditable move into more familiar territory. True, Parsifal is not exactly La Boheme at the box office; nonetheless, the opera attracts the finest singers and directors, so Dynamic has to be willing to endure invidious comparisons here. But they need not be invidious at all. While by no means a top-rank performance, the strengths here deserve recognition. After a brief opening montage of Venice, conductor Gabor Ötvös enters the pit to lead the Fenice players in a forthright but impassioned reading of the prelude. Ötvös does not linger; the long first act takes just about 100 minutes. Other conductors have taken longer, some considerably so, but the approach here pays respect to both the anxious, unsettled mood of the first act and to Wagner’s unique spiritual aura.

Denis Krief takes credit as director, set, costume and light designer. There is a zen-like purity to his conception (although thankfully no faux-Japanese elements intrude). A floor of rough wooden planks lies bare for acts one and three; the second has ominous walls of curved metal, rather like shavings off Disney Hall in Los Angeles. A few pale white stones and bisecting beams, suggesting a cross, serve to complete the stage picture in the first two acts. Krief’s costumes are in dark, muted colors, except for Klingsor’s. Singer Mikolaj Zalasinski bravely takes the stage in a white thong, with a kimono-like shawl providing a modest amount of modesty.

Visually then, this Parsifal offers the eye little, but Krief has real talent as a director. All the singers inhabit their roles with commitment, moving comfortably and naturally in the bare space. Only Kundry’s already dated pseudo-punk haircut mars the total picture, although the ultra-realistic deceased swan may produce a few giggles.

The cast list may not boast starry names, but there are no weak links. Tall and fairly athletic, Richard Decker doesn’t play up the “fool” side of Parsifal, instead projecting a Siegfried-like energy. At points his voice sounds about ready to wear itself out, and then he recovers his faculties and soldiers on. Matthias Hölle holds the evening together with his determined, serious Gurnemanz, a father figure to the knights and our guide to Parsifal’s transformation in act three. In a role where an unimpressive singer can really do some damage, Hölle’s success cannot be underestimated. Wolfgang Schöne doesn’t make as much of an impression as Amfortas, but the costuming here fails to suggest more strongly his agonizing wound. Doris Soffel also has to work against some unflattering costuming, but she understands Kundry’s complex character. More seductive women, in voice and physicality, have sung the role; Soffel gives as much of herself to the role as any singer can. Krief may have decided to court controversy with the amount of nudity — male as well as female — in the bisexual orgy of act two. The problem is, the admirable physiques of professional dancers amidst the chorus of attired flower maidens does not suggest sexual corruption so well. The distraction factor can’t be ignored either, with Decker kneeling at one point to sing with bare buttocks exposed right over his shoulder. Krief also “gives up” on the spear toss from Klingsor to Parsifal with an awkward black-out.

But with almost any production of any opera, nits can be picked. With only a few other DVDs of the opera on the market,

lovers of Parsifal should give this Dynamic release a viewing, despite the additional cost of an unnecessary third disc.

Chris Mullins

Claude Debussy lui-même, dans un élan étroitement représentatif d’un nombre incalculable de laudateurs, connus ou anonymes, pensait que Parsifal était l’un des joyaux irremplaçables de toute l’histoire de la musique. La plongée de quatre heures dans ce drame religieux et philosophique constitue une expérience absolument unique pour qui se trouve embarqué dans l’une des odyssées culturelles et humaines les plus fascinantes qui se puisse imaginer. Depuis sa création lors du deuxième Festival de Bayreuth le 26 juillet sous la direction d’Hermann Levi, l’opéra Parsifal trône sans concurrence véritable au Panthéon artistique universel.

Cet enregistrement DVD, réalisé au Théâtre de La Fenice de Venise en mars 2005, est une sérieuse invitation à découvrir et à vivre pleinement la synthèse qui vient d’être esquissée. Une aide précieuse se trouve fournie par une mise en scène conventionnelle, au sens le plus noble et le plus traditionnel du terme, tout à fait respectueuse du texte wagnérien et de l’histoire qu’il sert et développe. De même, les costumes et les éclairages offrent-ils un soutien réel et non pas, comme parfois, une divagation visant à torpiller la partition elle-même.

Les chanteurs incarnent avec talent leur personnage et donnent une belle leçon de théâtre touchant directement l’auditeur. Tout ce travail remarquable, hautement qualifié se voit enveloppé, porté et transcendé par la performance orchestrale. Cette dernière infiltre magiquement l’histoire, la scène et la salle ; il exerce un tel impact qu’il en vient pratiquement à graver dans les consciences des marques merveilleuses, profondes et enchanteresses. Il sert méticuleusement le symbolisme, la grâce divine, la chasteté et la rédemption, toutes ces notions véhiculées dans Parsifal par le moyen de leitmotive subtils et finement ciselés, d’un chromatisme plus ou moins dépouillé mais bien placé, de courtes sections mélodiques de toute beauté et d’une alchimie quasiment métaphysique témoignant de la maîtrise du compositeur Richard Wagner, l’artiste inspiré, celui qui demeure et demeurera immortel et adulé.

Jean-Luc Caron | 20 décembre 2006

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720×366, 1.5 Mbit/s, 3.0 GByte (MPEG-4)
Also available as audio recording