Theatre & Opera Magazine

DVD Review: The Grail, Unveiled

Posted on the 01 July 2011 by Superconductor @ppelkonen

DVD Review: The Grail, Unveiled

Linda Watson and Poul Elming in Parsifal.
Photo © 1998 Bayreuth Festival

Sinopoli's Classic 1998 Parsifal Escapes the Vault.
This 1998 Parsifal stands at a crossroads, between the halcyon days of big-budget opera recordings made at Bayreuth and the collapse of a record industry no longer willing to make new recordings. As such, it is the last such video made at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus for ten years.
It is also the last to be conducted by Italian maestro Giuseppe Sinopoli, who suffered a heart attack in 2001 while leading a performance of Aida in Berlin. Although it was made 13 years ago, this release in May of 2011 is its first appearance in any recorded form.
More importantly, this is a visual and aural record of Wolfgang Wagner's final thoughts on this opera. The composer's grandson had a traditional view of Parsifal, something to be treasured in these days of bizarre regietheater stagings. Wolfgang combines ideas from his grandfather's own 1883 staging and concepts first introduced by his brother Wieland at the 1951 reopening of the Festspielhaus following World War II.
Giuseppe Sinopoli was known for his idiosyncratic conducting style with an iconoclastic approach to tempos and an ear for detail. Here, the late maestro leads one of the slowest Parsifals on record, beating James Levine's 1985 recording by a whole two minutes. This is in keeping with Wagner's own approach to the opera. At the final 1883 performance, the composer took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi and led the third act--and it was very slow indeed.
Mr. Sinopoli is blessed with a decent, well-balanced cast. Poul Elming (Parsifal) and Falk Struckmann (Amfortas) make their second home video appearances in these roles. They had filmed the opera together in the Harry Kupfer staging in Berlin. (Sadly, this is not yet available on DVD.) Mr. Elming had not yet lost the bloom on his top, although he pushes a little during "Nur eine waffe tag." The Danish tenor also looks the part, fresh-faced and boyish at his entrance, and haggard in Act III. Mr. Struckmann looks haggard throughout, the picture of suffering, superbly sung.
Hans Sotin had been singing Gurnemanz at the Festpielhaus for about 15 years when this performance was filmed. The voice is slightly worn but the singer's experience and thorough understanding of the role make his narratives into fascinating listening. Linda Watson is an adequate Kundry, who does not penetrate the mystic hysteria of this unique character. Ekkehard Wlaschiha is a nasty Klingsor, who looks like his about to fall off his little onstage elevator. Matthais Hölle is a stolid, unyielding, and invisible presence as Titurel.

DVD Review: The Grail, Unveiled

The late, brilliant Giuseppe Sinopoli.

The wealth of orchestral detail is belied by the simplicity of this staging. Wolfgang Wagner presents the opera in a plain black space, with the acting surface dominated by a labyrinthine pattern on the floor. The set consists of four rotating units, which alternate between glowing Star Trek crystals and a set of claustrophobic reversed staircases for the vault of the Grail Temple. This austere approach makes this an excellent first Parsifal to watch before delving into the (brilliant) weirdness of directors like Harry Kupfer and Nikolaus Lehnoff. The sets accompany the performance, without dominating the opera.
The choral singing is very strong, and the Festival orchestra plays superbly, taking advantage of the fact that this opera was specifically written for the unique acoustics of Bayreuth. The Act II chorus of Flower Maidens and the Act III Good Friday Spell are led very slowly indeed, and the gradual approach offers the listener a wealth of sumptuous detail. Scholars of this unique opera may also hear ideas that were previously buried, like the Klingsor motif hiding (in a major key) underneath the final workings-out of the Grail theme at the end of Act III. That alone makes this recording worth adding to any collection.
Don't believe the hype: watch this trailer, which is four hours and 27 minutes shorter than the opera.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • How Different Kinds of Bread Affect Blood Sugar Levels, Compared to Teaspoons...

    Different Kinds Bread Affect Blood Sugar Levels, Compared Teaspoons

    Think whole-grain bread is a good choice? Could it help you control your blood sugar? Not necessarily. If you look at the graph above (made by the eminent Dr.... Read more

    8 hours, 11 minutes ago by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Monday Musings.

    Monday Musings.

    Ugh, someone give me an IV of coffee, would ya?! This weekend was super busy but thankfully, it was well spent with my people. Since we’re moving (did you... Read more

    9 hours, 18 minutes ago by   Thesamanthashow
    LIFESTYLE, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Summer Summertime Essentials

    Summer Summertime Essentials

    Summer is here, and boy did it slam us here in DC. Less than a week ago I was shivering in a coat and today it's 85 degrees. While I transitioned my wardrobe... Read more

    9 hours, 30 minutes ago by   Wardrobeoxygen
    FASHION, SELF EXPRESSION, SHOPPING
  • Auronya College Aims To Answer The Unknown Future With Education 4.0

    Auronya College Aims Answer Unknown Future With Education

    ,Auronya College aims to break the barriers to imbibe revolutionary means of providing global standard education to the youth. It is an amalgamation of modern... Read more

    10 hours, 21 minutes ago by   Jaideep Khanduja
    DIARIES, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Oriflame The ONE Lip Sensation Vinyl Gel Lipstick Review, Swatches & Price India

    Oriflame Sensation Vinyl Lipstick Review, Swatches Price India

    Oriflame has recently launched some luscious and beautiful lipstick gels under ‘The ONE’ range. Yes, it’s a perfect combo of lips gloss+lipstick! Read more

    10 hours, 30 minutes ago by   Jayshreebhagat
    HAIR & BEAUTY
  • Brand24 – The Social Listening Tool You Need Today

    Brand24 Social Listening Tool Need Today

    Brand24 -A Social Listening Tool Brand24 is a social listening tool I learned about over on the Quora network. Not only does Brand24 monitor your social mention... Read more

    10 hours, 32 minutes ago by   Lisa
    SELF EXPRESSION, SOCIAL MEDIA, TECH
  • Easy Protein Noodle Lasagna

    Easy Protein Noodle Lasagna

    Meal plansGet lots of weekly low-carb meal plans, complete with shopping lists and everything, with our premium meal planner tool (free trial).... Read more

    11 hours, 4 minutes ago by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE

Magazine