Friday, June 3, 2011

Wagner - Parsifal - Lehman, Urmana, Pape, Valery Gergiev, Mariinsky







Gergiev’s act I Prelude doesn’t seem especially slow. Yet when it’s all over, this Parsifal is eight minutes longer than the classic 1962 Bayreuth recording led by Hans Knappertsbusch, certainly not one known to rush through the opera. Like Kna, Gergiev always knows where he’s headed and keeps musical structures, large and small, in view. In that act I Prelude, listen to how effectively the conductor contrasts the first 19 measures with the next 19. The sense of light/dark dichotomy, hope vs. despair, is palpable; the dialectic of the entire drama seems to be contained within those first moments of the work. The opera unfolds with dignity and grandeur, never with any aura of cultish ritual. Gergiev Richard Wagner in 1871 doesn’t overwhelm his singers, but always assures that the orchestra makes its illuminating commentary register. When Gurnemanz, in act I, describes how Kundry transformed a desert into the magic garden, Gergiev has us briefly feel a verdant, out-of-doors atmosphere. The conductor makes much of instrumental passages that even those very familiar with the score may not have thought much about, as when Gurnemanz is extracting the transformed Kundry from the underbrush at the outset of act III. The closing pages of the opera are beautiful beyond words.

Gergiev has a terrific cast to work with. René Pape is the Wagnerian bass of his generation, and he’s in especially good voice. This Parsifal really moves along, both because of Gergiev’s dramatic instincts and because Pape’s Gurnemanz functions as much more than a narrator. He’s a representative member of the Grail community and helps us to understand how they have suffered since Amfortas’s disaster. At key moments in his exposition, such as “O wunden-wundervoller heiliger Speer! Ich sah dich schwingen von unheiligster Hand!,” Pape makes the back story come alive.

Gary Lehman portrays a thoughtful Parsifal, his voice possessing more than adequate heft and an appealing timbre. Violeta Urmana, an experienced and much sought-after Kundry, is womanly but not slutty in act II, quite effectively turning up the heat as poor Parsifal fails to fall before her charms. The front cover of the box holding this SACD set lists only Lehman, Urmana, and Pape, presumably because they are international stars. This is terribly unfair to Evgeny Nikitin, the Amfortas. Amfortas is arguably the most interesting character in the opera and it takes an insightful singer in the role to take any Parsifal to an exalted level. Nikitin provides a lyrical and richly colored representation that is fully alert to the extremes of the king’s physical and psychological torment; it’s a performance reminiscent of what Thomas Hampson brings to the role. Another Russian singer, Nikolai Putilin, offers a Klingsor with just the right degree of bitterness: He sputters and shouts, but also sings quite well.

The orchestral playing is top-notch and the chorus well prepared (though the six Flowermaidens get a little squally when singing together). The sound is superb. Veteran producer James Mallinson (of Decca fame) oversees a best-seat-in-the-house sonic perspective. The orchestra has impressive weight and impact, yet there’s an admirably natural balance between instrumentalists and singers, the latter positioned behind the players, as we see in a photo in the set’s booklet. If you do multichannel, this is a good one: Your listening room will be commandeered by the spacious acoustic of the Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall.--Andrew Quint  ''A truly moving performance. One of the finest Wagner recordings of recent years.'' --Gramophone Magazine  

Performer:  René Pape,  Nikolai Putilin,  Violeta Urmana,  Gary Lehman, Evgeny Nikitin, Alexei Tano Vitski
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra,  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Chorus


flac, booklet

1 comment:

  1. Part4 isn't available anymore. :(
    Any hope to reup it? Would be highly appreciated and thousand thanks anyway. :)


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