Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Parsifal in Baden-Baden

Waltraud Meier Kundry,
Christopher Ventris Parsifal
Thomas Hampson Amfortas
Matti Salminen Gurnemanz
Deutschen Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Baden-Baden Festival Choir/Kent Nagano

Opus Arte DVD OA 0915 D [16:9, 317 mins, including interviews etc]

Being no Perfect Wagnerite, nor a committed lover of Parsifal with its questionable religiosity and longeurs, especially in the first two acts, this is just a short welcome for the DVD of a Lehnhoff production which originated in London's ENO in 1999. I confess that we did not see it there.

The OpusArte booklet (unusually) gives an introduction by Nikolaus Lehnhoff himself, in which he gives us his interpretation of Amfortas as the symbol of mankind, his wound 'the wound of civilisation', the opera 'an endgame in the wasteland', but with sight of possible light at the end of 'the tunnel of mankind'. It is staged on a bare grey stage, with a railway track in the last act leading to and from who knows where.

Apparently it was Nagano's debut in a staged Wagner opera, and new too for the Deutschen Sinfonieorchester Berlin; for some German language reviewers in The Opera Critic (August 2004) it was somewhat lightweight. On the video there are memorable tableaux and fine singing by soloists and chorus alike, and Nagano is considerate to his singers. Matti Salminen in the long role of Gurnemanz gave me particular pleasure. The last act carried us with it; sound and picture quality are excellent, but in filming the orchestra I deplored the excessively close close-ups of individual instruments and continual change after a few seconds, this at odds with the contemplative music.

The main "extra" is a c.60 mins film by Reiner Moritz, which sandwiches brief interviews, mostly providing but limited insights, amongst too-lengthy repeated passages from the opera itself. Lehnhoff describes Gurnemanz as a reactionary conservative who yearns for the earlier rituals to be reinstated to mend the fragmenting world; we watched this film immediately before the news on TV of the appointment of a new reactionary conservative Pope!

All in all, I am happy to give this DVD of a notable production of Parsifal my recommendation; fuller reports from dedicated Wagnerites are awaited. There is a substantial film clip on the Opus Arte website, helpful for potential purchasers who may be hesitating to invest in this 3-CD box.

For one representative review of the live performances (there were only three at Baden-Baden) see also Salzburger Nachrichten 07 August 2004

© Peter Grahame Woolf