Opera on 3 - 21.05.11 Wagner's Parsifal
17:00 – 22:00 Opera on 3
Mark Wigglesworth conducts ENO's celebrated production of Wagner's last opera, Parsifal.
Presented by Donald Macleod
Mark Wigglesworth conducts ENO's highly acclaimed production of Wagner's last opera.
The knights of the Holy Grail are in disarray. Only a blameless fool, made wise through compassion, can cure Amfortas's wound and so set them on the way to recovery. Unlikely as it seems at first, Parsifal might well be that saviour.
Parsifal ..... Stuart Skelton (tenor)
Amfortas ..... Iain Paterson (bass)
Titurel ..... Andrew Greenan (bass)
Gurnemanz ..... John Tomlinson (bass)
Klingsor ..... Tom Fox (bass)
Kundry ..... Jane Dutton (mezzo soprano)
English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Conductor ..... Mark Wigglesworth.
I made a trip to London especially to see this, as the production had been talked up a lot. I thought John Tomlinson was incredibly wobbly (vocally) & really not up to it, so I shall probably give the broadcast a miss.
I suppose I should listen, as it's the only Wagner opera I don't really know. I have the Dover score, but no recording, which I realise is a bit odd.
I first heard Parsifal live at the Proms under Boulez in the early seventies, aged about 21, hotfoot from my own personal Kundry encounter. I was studying German and had got a bit obsessed with RW. It was done over two nights and I stood, of course, (one my own, unable to interest anyone in accompanying me to such an abstruse work). I had my little Reclam copy of the text in my hand with pencilled-in notes about leitmotivs and was utterly riveted from beginning to end.
Recording? Try Solti/Kollo/Frick/ VPO. Solti's Act 3 alone worth the money.
I remember the Boulez Proms, gurnemanz. It was just as well Parsifal was performed over two nights as the singer of your namesake, Louis Hendricx, ran out of voice on the first night. Apologies if I have mentioned that before.
I first heard Parsifal not long before that with Reggie Goodall at the ROH. It was the night that Gurnemanz was indisposed and they dragged Gottlob Frick out of retirement and at the end he sounded fresh enough to do it all over again. Jess Thomas was Parsifal and Amy Shuard was Kundry. Kiri te Kanawa was the second Flower Maiden.
For me, first stage Parsifal was Horenstein at ROH immediately before he died. Talvela as Gurnemanz, Helge Brilioth [I THINK] as Parsifal. Horenstein was helped to his seat, and hardly moved, conducting of the prelude seemed to be largely done by Charlie Taylor from the leader's desk, but in Act 3, Horenstein sudddenly stood.
Sadly Jascha Horenstein was very ill when he forced himself to conduct Parsifal in 1973. He had suffered problems since a heart attack in Minneapolis in 1971 (nowadays a pacemaker would probably have seen him live and possibly work much longer). He was one of my favourite conductors but that Parsifal was not him at his best.
I've seen Parsifal three times on stage - at ENO many years ago (don't know who was conducting or singing), at Covent Garden - Hoffman singing Parsifal, and the latests ENO production. The first production I didn't like at all - wedges of grey cheese trundling round, with twirly bits; the second I remember chiefly for Parsifal's rather skimpy costume in Act 3 (sorry to be so shallow ), & the latest had some very good parts but was marred for my by Tomlinson's singing. The best production I've seen is Syberberg's film (again, sorry to be repetetive as I've enthused over this on the old boards). I would suggest that if you've not seen Parsifal this is an excellent one to see.
I have only ever seen Parsifal live once, at the opera house in Brussels. However, I have several recordings: on LP, Knappertsbusch live in mono from Bayreuth 1951 and live in stereo from Bayreuth in 1961, and Solti; on CD, Karajan. The Rough Guide To Opera, which I normally find quite reliable, seems to have got itself into a bit of a tangle. It dismisses Karajan and Solti: "... Karajan's movingly conducted account for [DG] is let down by weak casting; the reverse is the problem with Solti ..." I cant see anything weak in the singing on Karajan, and how can Solti be let down by singing that is the reverse of weak? Crazy. The ones they like are the two Knappertsbusch versions mentioned above and Karajan (not the DG one, another on RCA), Barenboim and a vintage one by Muck (compiled from four performances in 1913, 1927, 1927 and 1928).