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-This discography is a personal survey of complete recordings of Wagner's 'Parsifal'.-

Parsifal Discography: Complete Recordings of the Opera

An introductory note:

In the years since I first assembled this discography, so many complete recordings of Parsifal have become available that today it would be a significant undertaking for anyone to assemble a comprehensive survey. Therefore, although I shall make some additions to this list from time to time, I have no ambition towards completeness and it will remain selective. I hope that this personal survey will at least assist those who are overwhelmed by the choice of recordings to identify a few recordings with which to begin their listening.

The recordings listed below are mostly those issued commercially, in formats such as LP, CD, SACD or other digital media, together with a few recordings that are downloadable or available on CD-R. I have made no attempt to include the many cassette tapes and MP3 files that are in circulation.

Note regarding durations:

In some cases I have timed approximate durations of individual acts in the recorded performances. Those durations, which give an indication of relative tempi, vary considerably. I have not included in these timings any applause or announcements.

Here are a few reference durations documented from earlier Bayreuth performances:

stopwatch
ConductorYearAct 1Act 2Act 3
Levi18821h47m1h02m1h15m.
Fischer18821h50m1h10m1h23m.
Mottl18881h46m1h07m1h22m.
Seidl18971h48m1h04m1h27m.
Muck19011h56m1h07m1h23m.
Balling19041h46m1h03m1h19m.
Beidler19061h48m1h05m1h18m.
S. Wagner19091h49m1h09m1h25m.
Kaehler19241h59m1h08m1h22m.
Toscanini19312h06m1h12m1h30m.
Strauss19331h46m1h04m1h18m.
Von Hoesslin19341h44m1h05m1h18m.
Furtwängler19361h52m1h03m1h17m.
Knappertsbusch19511h56m1h10m1h21m.

Average durations (1882-1951) are: Act 1, 1h51m ; Act 2, 1h06m; Act 3, 1h21m; total, 4h18m.




1936. Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires.

This performance was recorded on 22 September 1936.

Parsifal:
René Maison
Kundry:
Marjorie Lawrence
Gurnemanz:
Alexander Kipnis
Amfortas:
Martial Singher
Klingsor:
Fritz Krenn
Titurel:
Fred Destal

Conducted by Fritz Busch. Teatro Colón Orchestra and Chorus, Buenos Aires. Chorus master: Rafael Terragnolo.


Issued on CD: Ward Marston (info at marstonrecords.com).

Notes: Transcribed from the original discs by Ward Marston, who writes:The performance was recorded on sixteen- inch, aluminum-based, lacquer-coated discs. Using two turntables running at approximately 32.8 rpm, the recording covers sixteen sides. I have been told that the recording equipment was located in the basement of the Colón and that three microphones were used, one above the orchestra, a second above the front of the stage, and a third over the rear of the stage. Unfortunately, the operator of this equipment did not know how to adjust the three microphones properly to achieve a comfortable balance between singers and orchestra. Throughout the performance, the engineer constantly changed the sound level and switched microphones on and off seemingly for no reason at all. The singers are, therefore, not always as audible as one would like them to be.

stopwatchApproximate timings (some breaks): Act 1, 1h37m; Act 2, 53m; Act 3, 1h01m.

Personal rating: Sound Performance★★★


1938. Metropolitan Opera, New York

Live performance. Recorded on Good Friday, 15 April 1938. Broadcast direct on station WJZ.

Parsifal:
Lauritz Melchior
Kundry:
Kirsten Flagstad
Gurnemanz:
Emanuel List
Amfortas:
Friedrich Schorr
Klingsor:
Arnold Gabor
Titurel:
Norman Condon

Metropolitan Chorus and Orchestra, cond. Arthur Bodansky (acts 1 and 3), Erich Leinsdorf (act 2).

Issued on LP: The Golden Age of Opera, EJS 484, 1969.
Issued on CD: Myto 3CD 982.H013 3. Recently Act 2 (only, alas) has been transcribed from better source material and issued by Guild Immortal Performances, as GHCD 2201.

Notes: This is the only known recording ofParsifal with Flagstad and Melchior together, and the only recording of a performance in which Melchior sang the part without cuts. It also gives us a chance to hear the dark, deep voice of Emanuel List as Gurnemanz. This recording is, however, a necessary acquisition of the obsessive collector only. So little of the performance is discernible through the noise and distortion that as an aesthetic experience, listening to these discs leaves much to be desired and even more to the imagination. On first listening to its beginning, it is possible to imagine that one is listening to a herd of elephants stampeding, in a field covered in crumpled aluminium-foil, during a hailstorm. In the distance, muffled, an orchestra can be heard; the ear of faith can discern the prelude toParsifal. Although the sound quality improves, there are still passages in this act and the subsequent acts in which, while it is possible to hear someone singing, what they might be singing and who the singer might be, is difficult to tell. There is a break of 10 to 30 seconds every seven minutes, when the acetate discs of the original were changed during off-air recording. Some of these breaks occur at unfortunate points, such that we lose for example Titurel's "Mein Sohn Amfortas, bist du am Amt?", the second and third lines of "Ich sah das Kind" and Parsifal's declaration that he will become the Grail King. These breaks (despite the performance being, it was claimed, note-complete), result in a recording that fits on three CD's.

Personal rating: Sound Performance★★★


1948. Vienna

Live performance, October 1948.

Parsifal:
Günther Treptow
Kundry:
Anny Konetzni
Gurnemanz:
Ludwig Weber
Amfortas:
Paul Schöffler
Klingsor:
Adolf Vogel
Titurel:
Hans Braun

Chor der Wiener Staatsoper, Wiener Symphoniker,
cond. Rudolf Moralt

Issued on CD: Myto 4MCD 954.136, 1995.

Notes: Moralt's conducting and the feeble playing of the VSO do not commend this recording. The singing is mostly good, although Treptow sometimes sounds like he is being strangled. Bonus tracks: Act I ofDie Walküre.

stopwatchApproximate timings: 4h01m in total.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★


1949. Cologne

Live performance, April 1949.

Parsifal:
Bernd Aldenhoff
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Josef Greindl
Amfortas:
Heinrich Nillius
Klingsor:
Robert Blasius
Titurel:
Helmut Fehn

Cologne Opera, cond. Richard Kraus.

Issued on CD: Gebhart JGCD12, 2000.

Notes: Martha Mödl's first appearance in the rôle of Kundry, and very impressive she is too. The sound quality is very good for a historical recording. Unfortunately there is what sounds like a bad edit early on side 2.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1950. Italian Radio

Live performance. Recorded 20 November 1950, Rome.

Parsifal:
Africo Baldelli
Kundry:
Maria Meneghini Callas
Gurnemanz:
Boris Christoff
Amfortas:
Rolando Panerai
Klingsor:
Giuseppe Modesti
Titurel:
Dimitri Lopatto

Italian Radio Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Vittorio Gui.

Issued on LP: Roger Franck FWR-648, 1966
Foyer FO 1002, 1981
Estro Armonico 55
MWC 101
Fonit Cetra LAR 41, 1984

Issued on CD: Melodram 36041, 1987
Virtuoso 2699232, 1989.

Notes: Sung in Italian and heavily cut. Maria Callas contributes a lyrical but dispassionate and detached interpretation of Kundry, which suggests that she was unable either to identify with or to understand this character.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1 (deep cuts), 1h32m; Act 2 (some cuts), 54m; Act 3 (some cuts), 1h06m.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★


1951. Bayreuth Festival

Live performances. Recorded July-August 1951 (partly from two live performances and partly from the general rehearsal).

Parsifal:
Wolfgang Windgassen
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Ludwig Weber
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Hermann Uhde
Titurel:
Arnold van Mill

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on LP: Decca LXT 2651-6, 1952; GOM 504-8, 1966; 411 786-1, 1966;
Richmond RS 65001; London LLPA 10, 1952; A-4602
Issued on CD: Decca 425 976-2, 1989; Teldec 9031-76047-2; Naxos 8110221-24.
Also to be found on labels Zyx and Quadromania at budget price.

Notes: Windgassen is a credible Parsifal. Weber is a highly (some might say, too highly) dramatic Gurnemanz but rather wobbly. Mödl is an unsteady but committed Kundry in this performance, having some difficulties with her pitch, and not up to the standard of her recorded 1949 or 1953 performances. George London is a splendid Amfortas. Compared against later Bayreuth recordings, the string sound is a little thin, and the chorus are not always together. The flutes are sharp throughout. There is significant stage noise and occasionally audience noise too. This cannot be recommended as a first recording: it is mainly of historical interest.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h56m; Act 2, 1h10m; Act 3, 1h21m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ (as remastered) Performance★★★


1952. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 1st August 1952, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Wolfgang Windgassen
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Ludwig Weber
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Hermann Uhde
Titurel:
Kurt Böhme

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on CD: Golden Melodram GM 1.0051; Archipel ARPCD 0112-4, 2003; Andromeda "remastered edition" ANDRCD5161, 2014.

Notes: Like most of the live performances available on record with Kna conducting the Bayreuth artists, this recording was presumably taken from a live broadcast from the Festival. The singers are in general on better form than they had been in 1951 -- the cast is almost identical -- and the chorus is significantly more confident and accurate. The orchestra plays even better than they did in 1951.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h52m; Act 2, 1h10m; Act 3, 1h19m.

Personal rating: Sound (Arch)★★ Performance★★★★


1953. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 24 July 1953, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Ramon Vinay
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Ludwig Weber
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Hermann Uhde
Titurel:
Josef Greindl

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Clemens Krauss.

Issued on LP: Rodolphe Productions RP 12378/81, 1982;
Melodram MEL 533, 1983
Issued on CD: Laudis LCD4.4006; Archipel ARPCD0171; Rodolphe RPC 32516.17, 1988; Arlecchino ARL-A21, 1996;
Remixed into "ambient stereo" by Andrew Rose at Pristine Audio, 2010.

Notes: Geoffrey Riggs (operacast.com) notes thatMödl's Kundry is in her element now and she is, indeed, in much better vocal control than on the 1951 recording. He adds:A delightful bonus is the First Flower of Rita Streich. George London is heard at his best as Amfortas. Ludwig Weber is still wobbly. Unfortunately there is much coughing from the audience.

stopwatchApproximate timings: (fast, uncut) Act 1, 1h39m; Act 2, 56m; Act 3, 1h09m.

Personal rating: Sound: Rodolphe★★; Pristine Audio★★★ Performance★★★★


1954. Paris

Live performance. Recorded 26 March 1954, Opéra Garnier.

Parsifal:
Wolfgang Windgassen
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Otto von Rohr
Amfortas:
Gustav Neidlinger
Klingsor:
Heinz Cramer
Titurel:
Frithjof Sentpaul

Orchestra of the Paris Opéra, Württemberg State Opera Chorus, Stuttgart.
cond. Ferdinand Leitner, chorus director Heinz Mende.

Issued on CD: Profil PH09009.

Notes: Otto von Rohr is vocally firm and strong as Gurnemanz. Neidlinger is lyrical as the anguished Amfortas. Leitner's tempi are often brisk, especially in the first half of the second act, but quite slow in the last act. He makes the second act shorter even than Levi in 1882 or Furtwängler in 1936. There is some stage noise, like hammering, during the Good Friday scene: perhaps the stage crew were fixing the scenery.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h40m; Act 2, 1h01m; Act 3, 1h14m.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★★


1954. Metropolitan Opera, New York

Live performance. Broadcast direct on station WABC on 17 April 1954.

Parsifal:
Set Svanholm
Kundry:
Astrid Varnay
Gurnemanz:
Hans Hotter
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Lawrence Davidson
Titurel:
Lubomir Vichegonov (Vichey)

Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Fritz Stiedry.

Issued on LP: Melodram MEL 442(4), 1984.
Issued on CD: Adonis 54001, 1998. Pristine Classical PACO171, 2020.
Available as a download from operadepot.com or in remastered splendour from pristineclassical.com .

Notes: An interesting performance with a strong cast. Hans Hotter is heard singing Gurnemanz for the first time in his career. Astrid Varnay is a strong and convincing Kundry although a little unsteady at the start of the second act. Set Svanholm is an acceptable Parsifal. George London is a strong and confident Amfortas. Lawrence Davidson was a last minute replacement as Klingsor but manages to get through the second act without too much trouble. There is a lyrical quality to the singing of the minor roles, in distinct contrast to the more dramatic style that can be heard in recorded European performances of the same work in the same period. Fritz Stiedry's conducting is rather eccentric, with some passages taken so fast that the singers can hardly get the words out. There is a strange cut in Gurnemanz's narrative, after "uns'res König's Hut", down to "Vor dem verwais'ten Heiligtum". Perhaps the management thought that the audience would find out about Klingsor and his Flower maidens eventually, so why spoil the surprise by letting Gurnemanz tell us in advance?

stopwatchApproximate timings (some cuts): Act 1, 1h42m; Act 2, 1h00m; Act 3, 1h08m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ (as remastered) Performance★★★


1954. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 5 August 1954, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Wolfgang Windgassen
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Ludwig Weber
Amfortas:
Hans Hotter
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Arnold van Mill

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on CD: King Records 7 Seas KICC 2341/4, Golden Melodram GM 1.0053, Archipel ARPCD0283.

Notes: Good mono sound, with a few less good patches, and better than most of the Bayreuth off-air recordings. Martha Mödl is here on top form, much better than she was in 1951. Ludwig Weber has a strange manner of singing: never any legato, he just punches out the notes one by one. The versatile Hans Hotter is perfect as Amfortas. Klingsor is well sung by Neidlinger. Windgassen sings a benchmark Parsifal, working well with Mödl in the seduction scene. Excellent work from choruses and orchestra.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h56m; Act 2, 1h11m; Act 3, 1h21m.

Personal rating: Sound (GM)★★★ Performance★★★★


1956. Rome

Live performance. Recorded 29 March 1956, RAI, and broadcast on 1 April.

Parsifal:
Wolfgang Windgassen
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Ludwig Weber
Amfortas:
Ferdinand Frantz
Klingsor:
Hermann Uhde
Titurel:
Alois Pernerstorfer

Chorus and Orchestra of RAI Rome,
cond. Eugen Jochum.

Issued on CD: Living Stage LS4035169, 2003.

Notes: Mostly in good mono sound but with moderate distortion in places and variable in volume. Titurel has to compete with crosstalk from another station. There is a break of a few seconds near the start of the second act. The bells sound like either sheet metal or possibly large Fiat spare parts. Jochum conducts with brisk but sensible tempi. A first-rate cast of vocal soloists. Good choral and orchestral contributions. Mödl, in good voice here, also sings the Voice from Above.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h42m; Act 2, 1h00m; Act 3, 1h10m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1956. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 19 August 1956, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Ramón Vinay
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Josef Greindl
Amfortas:
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Klingsor:
Toni Blankenheim
Titurel:
Hans Hotter

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on LP: Cetra LO 79, 1979; Melodram MEL 563, 1982
Issued on CD: Hunt LSMH 34035, 1990; Arkadia CDMP 435.4, 1991; Walhall on WLCD0192.

Notes: Not great sound. The weak links in the cast are DFD, unconvincing as a barking Amfortas, and a rather dull Klingsor from Toni Blankenheim. Hotter is a splendid Titurel, although one might wish that he had sung Amfortas instead. A gritty Gurnemanz from Greindl. Mödl has some vocal difficulties in the second act. Kna slightly faster than in earlier seasons.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h50m; Act 2, 1h08m; Act 3, 1h18m.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★


1957. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 23 August 1957, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Ramón Vinay
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Josef Greindl
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Toni Blankenheim
Titurel:
Arnold van Mill

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on CD: Walhall WLCD0215

Notes: Variable sound quality. In the title role Ramón Vinay is, on his first appearance, suitably wild and uncouth. This is not one of your well-mannered, college-educated Parsifals. This is a youth with dirt under his fingernails. He is audibly transformed in the second act. There is a splendid interpretation of Amfortas from George London. As Klingsor, Toni Blankenheim is still dull.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h51m; Act 2, 1h06m; Act 3, 1h17m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1958. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 25 July 1958, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Hans Beirer
Kundry:
Régine Crespin
Gurnemanz:
Jerome Hines
Amfortas:
Eberhard Wächter
Klingsor:
Toni Blankenheim
Titurel:
Josef Greindl

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on LP: Melodram MEL 583, 1981.
Issued on CD: Golden Melodram GM 1.0058; Walhall WLCD0256.

Notes: A fresh cast except for the dull Blankenheim and the increasingly annoying Greindl, who has been demoted to Titurel. Newcomers Beirer, Crespin, Wächter and Hines are all splendid. Loud bells.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h49m; Act 2, 1h09m; Act 3, 1h13m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1959. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Live performance recorded on 16 June 1959.

Parsifal:
Karl Liebl
Kundry:
Gerda Lammers
Gurnemanz:
Gottlob Frick
Amfortas:
Eberhard Wächter
Klingsor:
Otakar Kraus
Titurel:
Forbes Robinson

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House,
cond. Rudolf Kempe.

Notes: Available from operadepot.com. Good mono sound. There are a few noises, perhaps caused by someone disturbing the microphone, and there is brief tape damage at the end of the first half of act one. Featuring a powerful interpretation of Amfortas from Eberhard Wächter and a splendid Gurnemanz from Gottlob Frick.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h46m; Act 2, 1h03m; Act 3, 1h14m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1959. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 7 August 1959, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Hans Beirer
Kundry:
Martha Mödl
Gurnemanz:
Jerome Hines
Amfortas:
Eberhard Wächter
Klingsor:
Toni Blankenheim
Titurel:
Josef Greindl

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.


Issued on CD: Golden Melodram GM1.0070; Walhall WLCD 0295.

Notes: Noteworthy for a powerful interpretation of Amfortas from Eberhard Wächter. Unfortunately Martha Mödl is unsteady.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h46m; Act 2, 1h08m; Act 3, 1h14m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1960. Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Live performance and matinee broadcast on 9 April 1960.

Parsifal:
Karl Liebl
Kundry:
Margaret Harshaw
Gurnemanz:
Jerome Hines
Amfortas:
Hermann Uhde
Klingsor:
Gerhard Pechner
Titurel:
William Wildermann

Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Erich Leinsdorf.

Issued on CD: Walhall Eternity WLCD 0335, 2011.

Notes: In reasonably good mono sound. Leinsdorf's tempi are elastic: quite slow up to the entry of Parsifal, then a little faster, and slower again in the Temple scene. The second act is taken very fast. There's a good cast of principals, most of them American.
stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1 (one cut), 1h35m; Act 2, 54m; Act 3, 1h08m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1960. Milan, La Scala

Live performance. Recorded (from a radio broadcast?) on 2 May 1960, Milan.

Parsifal:
Sándor Kónya
Kundry:
Rita Gorr
Gurnemanz:
Boris Christoff
Amfortas:
Gustav Neidlinger
Klingsor:
Georg Stern
Titurel:
Silvio Maionica

Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan,
cond. André Cluytens.

Issued on LP: Melodram MEL 437, 1984.
Issued on CD: Andromeda ANDRCD 9114; Golden Melodram GM1.0077

Notes: A mono recording, with some parts in good sound but others variable both in pitch and in volume. Sometimes there is significant distortion, for example during the prelude to the first act. In quiet passages there is occasionally audible what sounds like interference from another station. The second act has better sound than the outer acts.

There are three small cuts in Gurnemanz's narratives. Well played and conducted, with a splendid cast, including Montserrat Caballé as First Flower. This was Kónya's debut at La Scala. He had already sung Lohengrin in Bayreuth (1958) and in Paris (1959).

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1 (two cuts), 1h39m; Act 2, 1h04m; Act 3 (one cut), 1h06m.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★★★


1960. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 31 July 1960, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Hans Beirer
Kundry:
Régine Crespin
Gurnemanz:
Josef Greindl
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
David Ward

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on LP: Melodram MEL 018, 1980; MEL 603, 1980.
Issued on CD: Gala on GL100655; Myto on MCD00279.

Notes: The perceptive Emma Albani, writing on rec.music.opera, comments on the CD issue as follows.Wonderful choral work, excellent flower maidens and good if not always together or really accurate orchestra. There is a great Kundry from Regine Crespin in her prime. T. Stewart also in his prime in an excellent Amfortas. That leaves Parsifal and Gurnemanz, Beier and Griendl. They know what they're doing but are not pretty sounding...
stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h48m; Act 2, 1h07m; Act 3, 1h10m. Overall this was the fastest of the Knappertsbusch performances on record.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★

1961. Vienna State Opera

Live performance. Recorded 1 April 1961, Vienna.

Parsifal:
Fritz Uhl
Kundry:
Christa Ludwig (act 2), Elisabeth Höngren (acts 1 & 3, opening scene of act 2)
Gurnemanz:
Hans Hotter
Amfortas:
Eberhard Wächter
Klingsor:
Walter Berry
Titurel:
Tugomir Franc

Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Herbert von Karajan.

Issued on CD: Hunt/Arkadia KAR 219, 1990; Opera D'Oro 1998; RCA 74321-61950-2, 1999.

Notes: This recording seems to be missing part of the first scene of this performance, for which an extract from another recording has been substituted. In this extract, possibly taken from a Bayreuth performance under Knappertsbusch, the voice of Gurnemanz appears to be that of Jerome Hines and that of Kundry is probably Martha Mödl.

Karajan's tempi are brisk. The recording has a strong "feel" of live performance, with a live acoustic; the temple choruses and Titurel sound distant. Otherwise the singers seem to have been closely miked. The orchestral balance is uneven, apparently due to the poor placing of too few microphones, and some of the woodwind instruments are almost inaudible. Karajan seems to have concentrated on beauty of sound, both from the orchestra and the singers. Even in passages where a more dramatic style would be normal, the singing is consistently lyrical. The strings seem to slide between notes rather more than is usual.

Hans Hotter is an ideal Gurnemanz. For reasons that have not been fully explained, but apparently by Karajan's decision (this production was under his complete control), the role of Kundry was taken by two singers. Elizabeth Höngren played the wild Kundry and the penitent Kundry; but the seductress was played by Christa Ludwig. In the long scene between Kundry and Parsifal, Ludwig gives us an outstanding performance, and, unusually, all of the necessary tension of this scene is evident. Gundula Janowitz sings First Flower.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h41m; Act 2, 1h04m; Act 3, 1h11m.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★★★


1961. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 25 July 1961, Bayreuth Festspielhaus. (There was another broadcast on 5 August).

Parsifal:
Jess Thomas
Kundry:
Irene Dalis
Gurnemanz:
Hans Hotter
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Ludwig Weber

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on CD: Golden Melodram GM 1.0049; Myto MCD00289.

Notes: Available from operadepot.com. Good mono sound. This is a fine performance of the opera with almost the same cast as on the better-known recording from 1962. Irene Dalis is more than acceptable as Kundry although not the most dramatic interpreter of the role. Hans Hotter is a lyrical and convincing Gurnemanz. Gustav Neidlinger is a smooth and polished Klingsor. Wobbly Weber has been demoted to Titurel.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h50m; Act 2, 1h10m; Act 3, 1h14m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★★★


1962. Bayreuth Festival

Live performances. Recorded July-August 1962, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Jess Thomas
Kundry:
Irene Dalis
Gurnemanz:
Hans Hotter
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Martti Talvela

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on LP: Philips 6729 002, 1964; 6747 250, 1976;
PHM 5-550 (mono) PHS 5-950 (stereo), 1965
Melodiya D 33809
Issued on CD: Philips 416 390-2, reissued as 464 756-2.

Notes: A very fine performance of the work and highly recommended. It is the only stereo recording among the many recordings from live performances ofParsifal at the Bayreuth Festival. This recording and the 1951 recording described above are the only "commercial" recordings among them and generally of better technical quality than those originating in radio broadcasts. In a short review ofParsifal recordings (November 2014),Gramophone recommended this recording asone of the greatest sets of all time. Unfortunately Hotter sounds like he was past his prime (and possibly suffering from hay fever) and George London's Amfortas is no more than a shadow of his recorded 1951 performance. In the title role, Jess Thomas is superb. The Flowermaidens include Gundula Janowitz and Anja Silja.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h47m; Act 2, 1h09m; Act 3, 1h13m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★ Performance★★★★★


1963. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 24 July 1963 from the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Wolfgang Windgassen
Kundry:
Irene Dalis
Gurnemanz:
Hans Hotter
Amfortas:
George London
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Ludwig Weber

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on CD: Golden Melodram GM-10034, 1999.

Notes: Good mono sound. Hans Hotter sounds much better than he did the year before, perhaps less affected by hay fever. Irene Dalis is a serious and proper Kundry, rather than a wild woman. Her words are not always clear because of her wide vibrato. Windgassen is not always on the beat but otherwise fine. George London is back on form and Gustav Neidlinger is splendid. The First Flower is Anja Silja.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h50m; Act 2, 1h10m; Act 3, 1h11m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★★★


1964. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 13 August 1964 from the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. (There was another broadcast on 21 July).

Parsifal:
Jon Vickers
Kundry:
Barbro Ericson
Gurnemanz:
Hans Hotter
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Heinz Hagenau

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Hans Knappertsbusch.

Issued on LP: Melodram MEL 643, 1984
Issued on CD: Broadcast: Hunt LSMH 34051, 1990; Golden Melodram 1.0004, 1998.
From BR master tapes: Orfeo C690074L. (No significant difference in sound quality from those listed above.)

Notes: The 55th and last performance ofParsifal conducted by Kna at Bayreuth. Geoffrey Riggs (operacast.com) called thisthe most superbly conducted 'Parsifal' on disc. Barbro Ericson is no more than adequate as Kundry. Hotter was by this time well past his "best before" date but here he is steadier than on the 1962 recording. The young Jon Vickers is fresh and vibrant in the title role. The First Flower is Anja Silja.

stopwatchApproximate timings:

Personal rating: Sound (GM)★★★ Performance★★★★★


1965. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 10 August 1965, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Jess Thomas
Kundry:
Astrid Varnay
Gurnemanz:
Hans Hotter
Amfortas:
Theo Adam
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Martti Talvela

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. André Cluytens.

Notes: Available from operadepot.com: please note that the (mono) sound quality is not always good. In particular the third act seems to have been taken from a damaged tape.
Jess Thomas is splendidly heroic, the star of this performance. Astrid Varnay is not on top vocal form and Hans Hotter is definitely past his best years. The mens' chorus tend to shout.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h47m; Act 2, 1h07m; Act 3, 1h13m. Very similar to the durations of performances conducted by Knappertsbusch 1958-59.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★★


1966. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded 25 July 1966, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Sándor Kónya
Kundry:
Astrid Varnay
Gurnemanz:
Josef Greindl
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Kurt Böhme

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Pierre Boulez.

Issued on CD: Golden Melodram 1.0037

Notes: A recording in good mono sound from a performance in which Boulez takes the music rather fast, although not quite as fast as in 1970 (see below). Even so, I have to question whether rushing through the second act in less than one hour can be justified artistically, even if the orchestra and singers can keep up with the conductor. Konya is a convincing Parsifal and Stewart a suitably agonized Amfortas. The weakest link here is Josef Greindl, who barks his way through the role of Gurnemanz. Unfortunately Astrid Varnay is past her prime here, with a tendency to shriek.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h35m; Act 2, 57m; Act 3, 1h05m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★


1967. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 28 July 1967 from the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
James King
Kundry:
Christa Ludwig
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Gustav Neidlinger
Titurel:
Karl Ridderbusch

The Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra were conducted by Pierre Boulez.

Notes: Available from operadepot.com. There are a few short breaks, presumably while tapes were changed.
Another very fast performance but Boulez keeps the duration of acts and scenes in proportion. I suspect that the breakneck speed of the conductor is aimed not so much at any artistic goal as an attempt to gain notoriety. There is no weak link in the cast. James King is an engaged and splendid Parsifal. Christa Ludwig provides a masterclass in how to sing the role of Kundry, especially wonderful in the last scene of the second act. Thomas Stewart again is superb as Amfortas. Martha Mödl has a cameo role as the Voice from Above. Among the Flowermaidens are Anja Silja and Helga Dernesch.
stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h36m; Act 2, 57m; Act 3, 1h05m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★★


1968. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 27 July 1968, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Jean Cox
Kundry:
Amy Shuard
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Donald McIntyre
Titurel:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Pierre Boulez.

Notes: Available from operadepot.com. Radio broadcast stereo: mostly in very good, steady sound but with some crackly interference towards the end of Act 3. In places Boulez was still pushing the tempo hard but overall a slightly longer performance than on the recording from 1967. Franz Crass is really excellent as Gurnemanz. Jean Cox is a Parsifal with character. Amy Shuard is a wild (soprano) Kundry with splendid manic laughter in the second act.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h37m; Act 2, 1h01m; Act 3, 1h08m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★ Performance★★★★


1969. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 26 July 1969, Bayreuth Festspielhaus. (There was another broadcast on 6 August).

Parsifal:
James King
Kundry:
Ludmila Dvoráková
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Gerd Nienstedt
Titurel:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Horst Stein.

Notes: Available from operadepot.com. Not in good sound.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1; Act 2; Act 3.


1969. Buenos Aires

Live performance. Recorded 24 October 1969, Teatro Colón.

Parsifal:
Wolfgang Windgassen
Kundry:
Regine Crespin
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Theo Adam
Klingsor:
Victor de Narke
Titurel:
Victor de Narke

Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Colón,
cond. Erich Leinsdorf.

Notes: Issued on CD by Living Stage, LS 1043, 2003.
Crespin is a wild Kundry but she struggles towards the end of the second act.

stopwatchApproximate timings: (some cuts) 3h28m.

1970. Rome

Live performance. RAI, Basilica Ara Coeli Roma. Dates of 28/3, 27/4 and 28/4 have been claimed.

Parsifal:
Timo Callio
Kundry:
Ursula Schröder-Feinen
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Theo Adam
Klingsor:
Gerd Nienstedt
Titurel:
Kurt Moll

Chorus and Orchestra of RAI Rome, cond. Wolfgang Sawallisch.

Issued on CD: Myto 063.328, 2006.

Notes: Mono sound, mostly very good: only a few passages have distortion or noise. Recorded from somewhere close to the stage, perhaps above the trumpets. Excellent orchestral playing and precise choral singing, not least from a splendid bunch of Flowermaidens. Exceptionally good solos from violin and wind soloists. Possibly the brass are a little too eager in places. It is difficult to imagine the ending of the opera being done better than it is in this performance: the harps are clearly audible which is not always the case either live or on recordings. This performance features a cast of first-rate principal singers, including Franz Crass, again an expressive Gurnemanz. This is one of very few recordings on which we can hear the soprano Ursula Schröder-Feinen. The Finnish tenor Timo Callio, in the title role, too has been little documented on disk. Sawallisch was always "a safe pair of hands" and he gets good results here, not least from Schröder-Feinen, an expressive and accurate Kundry. She is electrifying in the final pages of the second act and convincingly distraught at the start of the third act. Sawallisch's tempi are brisk and fluid: nothing is rushed or overly drawn out.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h39m; Act 2, 1h01m; Act 3, 1h08m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★ Performance★★★★


1970. Teatro La Fenice, Venice

Live performance. Recorded 16 April 1970, Venice.

Parsifal:
René Kollo
Kundry:
Amy Shuard
Gurnemanz:
Arnold van Mill
Amfortas:
Hubert Hoffmann
Klingsor:
Georg Stern
Titurel:
Walther Hagner

Chorus and Orchestra of La Fenice,
cond. Heinz Wallberg.

Issued on CD: Mondo Musica MFOH 10411, 1999.

Notes: Why this has been issued is a mystery. Although the principal singers are adequate, Heinz Wallberg seems to be out of his depth in the score ofParsifal. He conducts most of the music quite fast, except for the prelude to the second act, which plods along atandante. The orchestra and singers must have had some difficulty following his beat, since the strings are sometimes out of step with the brass and the singers are often out of step with both. Both orchestra and chorus sound under-rehearsed. The mens chorus provide some vigorous singing in the temple scenes that suggests (perhaps not inappropriately) a rugby team after a hard game. The strangest thing about this recording is that the choruses in both the first act and the third act are sung inItalian even though the soloists sing inGerman.

The score has been disfigured by deep cuts. These include: in the first act, Gurnemanz's lines are cut fromDrum blieb es dem ... down to the end of his narration, the next line being that of the squire,Vor allem nun: der Speer kehr uns zurück!; then, after the swan is brought on, fromSein Weibchen zu suchen ... down to Parsifal breaking his bow. Towards the end of the second act, Kundry's lines are cut fromNun such' ich ihn ... down toaus der ich büssend kaum erwacht; then the exchange with Parsifal from Kundry'sNie -- sollst du ihn finden! down to Parsifal'sVergeh', unseliges Weib!, so that the next line sung is Kundry'sHilfe! Hilfe! ; then her lines are omitted fromUnd flöhest du von hier ... down toso verwünsch' ich sie dir. In the third act, there is an enormous cut in Gurnemanz's part, fromAch, sie bedarf des Heiles ..., omitting Parsifal's cry of guilt, down toNicht so!, resuming atDie heil'ge Quelle selbst. Thus Parsifal is never told that Titurel has died! These cuts, together with the fast tempi, shorten the music enough to fit on three CD's.

Despite the date given on the box, this recording seems to have been compiled from more than one performance, or at least more than one tape, since there are some clumsy edits (for example atso segne ich dein Haupt in act three). Therefore it seems hard to understand that some of the rougher patches of orchestral playing were included in the master, such as the wrong entry of a brass player (no doubt confused by the cuts) just before this atso sei er fleckenrein. The placement of microphones does not seem to have been given much thought; generally the orchestra is too loud in relation to the singers, and when the latter are upstage they are faint; the offstage choruses are barely audible and the voice from above can hardly be heard. The sound of the coughing audience, however, has been faithfully recorded.

stopwatchApproximate timings: (deep cuts) 3h14m in total.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance


1970. Bayreuth Festival

Live performances. Recorded July-August 1970, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
James King
Kundry:
Gwyneth Jones
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Donald McIntyre
Titurel:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Pierre Boulez.

Issued on LP: Deutsche Grammophon 2720 034; 217 004; 419 033-1, 1971. A recording taken from the broadcast of 2 August is available from operadepot.com.

Notes: The performance is partly spoiled by a misguided conductor who takes many passages much too fast and by the shrieking of Gwyneth Jones (fortunately pre-wobble). The orchestra just about manage to keep up with the conductor but some detail is lost on the way.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h34m; Act 2, 58m; Act 3, 1h06m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★ Performance★★★


1971. ROH Covent Garden, London.

Live recording. Recorded and broadcast on 8 May 1971.

Parsifal:
Jon Vickers
Kundry:
Amy Shuard
Gurnemanz:
Louis Hendrikx
Amfortas:
Norman Bailey
Klingsor:
Donald McIntyre
Titurel:
Michael Langdon

ROH Orchestra and Royal Opera Chorus, cond. Reginald Goodall

Issued on CD: ROH Heritage Series ROHS012. Radio broadcast stereo.

Notes: Although it records what was in some respects less than a great performance, this recording of the infamous "furry log" production is an important historical document from Covent Garden in the Solti era. There is some great singing -- Vickers alone justifies buying this set (although he can be heard in better sound and with a better orchestra on the 1976 Paris Opéra recording), McIntyre and Hendrikx are excellent, Bailey and Shuard (described by the eminent Geoffrey Riggs asa creditable soprano Kundry) are both good, and the Flower Maidens are delightful if not always entirely together. The young Kiri te Kanawa is First Flower. Amy Shuard's "Ich sah das Kind" is not helped by the glacially slow tempo (although Goodall is not the only conductor who thought, wrongly, that this number had to be taken very slowly).

But the performance is spoiled in places by quite inadequate playing in the pit (where perhaps the substitutes outnumbered the regular players?). One does not have to listen to more than half of the first act prelude to realise that this was not a good night for the brass section, who continue to play out of tune for most of the first act. On the other hand, there is some fine playing from soloists in the woodwind section, such as the English horn solos in the second act. Of the bells, perhaps the less said the better. Goodall was on this occasion as on many others tediously, excruciatingly slow, taking nearly half an hour longer to deliver a performance than did Solti and an hour longer than Boulez in Bayreuth, almost as slow as Toscanini was in 1931. Goodall was in the annoying habit of taking a "Luftpause" at the end of every other phrase. This does not seem to matter in the outer acts but there are places in the second act where I find myself thinking, "for goodness sake get a move on, Reggie!".

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h59m; Act 2, 1h18m; Act 3, 1h26m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★


1971. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 24 July 1971, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Sándor Kónya
Kundry:
Janis Martin
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Thomas Stewart
Klingsor:
Gerd Nienstedt
Titurel:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Eugen Jochum, chorus master Wilhelm Pitz.

Issued on CD: Golden Melodram, 2003.

Notes:... aside from the Klingsor and the very occasional disagreement with the podium, this appears to be one of the more assured musical readings on the market. - Geoffrey Riggs.

stopwatchApproximate timings: 3h57m in total.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★★★


1971-1972. Vienna State Opera

Studio recording. 7-17 December 1971 and 15-25 March 1972, Sofiensaal.

Parsifal:
René Kollo
Kundry:
Christa Ludwig
Gurnemanz:
Gottlob Frick
Amfortas:
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Klingsor:
Zoltan Kélémen
Titurel:
Hans Hotter

Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Boys Choir, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,
cond. Georg Solti.

Issued on LP: Decca SET 550-4, 1973
London OSA 1510, 1973
Issued on CD: Decca 417 143-2. Remastered for Bluray 2017.

Notes: A remarkable feature of Kollo's interpretation of the title role is the drained, bleached tone he employs during the Good Friday scene in the last act. Although unattractive, it conveys the weariness and exhaustion of Parsifal, after ten years of wandering. This recording features a strong cast, also in minor roles; the Flower Maidens included Lucia Popp, Anne Howells and Kiri te Kanawa. Those who like DFD in Wagner roles will appreciate his Amfortas more than the rest of us. Christa Ludwig is a vibrant and (in the second act) sensual Kundry. Gottlob Frick is a dignified Gurnemanz. Zoltan Kélémen is a sinister Klingsor. Hans Hotter is an ideal Titurel.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h51m; Act 2, 1h11m; Act 3, 1h18m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★★


1972. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 29 July 1972, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
James King
Kundry:
Janis Martin
Gurnemanz:
Franz Crass
Amfortas:
Theo Adam
Klingsor:
Donald McIntyre
Titurel:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Eugen Jochum.

Notes: Available from operadepot.com. Mostly in good (mono) sound although there seems to be a problem, either with the tape or with the recorder, towards the end of the first act.
Another great Bayreuth cast in a brisk performance. Donald McIntyre as a sinister Klingsor commands a splendid bunch of Flowermaidens.

stopwatchApproximate timings:Act 1, 1h40m; Act 2, 1h01m; Act 3, 1h10m.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★★★

1973. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 27 July 1973, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Jean Cox
Kundry:
Janis Martin
Gurnemanz:
Franz Mazura
Amfortas:
Donald McIntyre
Klingsor:
Gerd Nienstedt
Titurel:
Hans Sotin

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra,
cond. Eugen Jochum, chorus master Wilhelm Pitz.

Issued on CD:

Notes: Available from operadepot.com.
Good mono sound. A faster performance than usual from Jochum, with a first-rate cast. Unfortunately it is so fast that in places Jochum's tempo is hard on the singers: for example, for Parsifal immediately afterAmfortas! die Wunde!. Yet he takes the prelude to the third act quite slowly. There is a splendid interpretation of Kundry from Janis Martin, on top form in this performance. Franz Mazura is an expressive Gurnemanz. A strong Titurel from Hans Sotin and a beautifully sung Amfortas from McIntyre. Nienstedt is certainly not the most interesting Klingsor on record: he sounds pathetic rather than evil.
stopwatchApproximate timings:Act 1, 1h36m; Act 2, 1h00m; Act 3, 1h06m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★★


1975. Leipzig

Live performance. Recorded from a concert performance on 11 January 1975.

Parsifal:
René Kollo
Kundry:
Gisela Schröter
Gurnemanz:
Ulric Cold
Amfortas:
Theo Adam
Klingsor:
Reid Bunger
Titurel:
Fred Teschler

Leipzig Radio Chorus, Berlin Radio Chorus, St. Thomas' Choir, Leipzig, Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Herbert Kegel.

Issued on LP: Eterna 8 27 031-035, 1975.
Issued on CD: Berlin Classics, a sub-label of Edel Classics. Budget issue 2005, reissued complete with booklet 2008.

Notes: Some reviewers have advised that this recording should be avoided. I found it mostly good, especially the choruses, although the set cannot be recommended as a first, or even as a second, recording. Brisk and unsentimental. Kollo is a convincing Parsifal but Gisela Schröter has a disturbing vocal wobble. Theo Adam as Amfortas is the best of the soloists. The orchestra are fine although sometimes the brass are a little too loud.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h35m; Act 2, 1h00m; Act 3, 1h06m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★ Performance★★★


1975. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 25 July 1975, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
René Kollo
Kundry:
Eva Randová
Gurnemanz:
Hans Sotin
Amfortas:
Bern Weikl
Klingsor:
Franz Mazura
Titurel:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra, cond. Horst Stein.

Recording: Available from operadepot.com .

Notes:

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, ; Act 2, ; Act 3, .



1976. Paris

Live performance. Recorded at L'Opéra de Paris on 18 April 1976.

Parsifal:
Jon Vickers
Kundry:
Nadine Denize
Gurnemanz:
Kurt Moll
Amfortas:
Theo Adam
Klingsor:
Jacques Mars
Titurel:
Jules Bastin

Choeur et Orchestre de l'Opéra de Paris; cond. Horst Stein.

Recording: Available in good quality stereo sound and MP3 format from operadepot.com .

Notes: Anyone looking for a recording of this opera, in good sound, with Jon Vickers at the top of his form need look no further. Mezzo Nadine Denize delivers a fine interpretation of Kundry, although the top notes in the second act are a stretch. Horst Stein's conducting is competent if not always exciting; his tempi are well chosen and the orchestral playing is excellent.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h40m; Act 2, 1h03m; Act 3, 1h10m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★ Performance★★★★★


1976. Frankfurt

Live performance. Recorded at Oper Frankfurt on 23 May 1976.

Parsifal:
Sven Olaf Eliasson
Kundry:
Leonie Rysanek
Gurnemanz:
Manfred Schenk
Amfortas:
Leif Roar
Klingsor:
Dieter Waller

Orchestra and Choir of Oper Frankfurt; cond. Horst Stein.


Recording: Available from operadepot.com, whose catalogue also contains a recording from Hamburg earlier the same year, which was Rysanek's debut in the role of Kundry. Unfortunately the Hamburg recording is not in very good sound.

Notes: Intermittent loud coughing probably from the person who made the tape. There are a few short breaks, presumably for changing tapes. Horst Stein was not the most exciting of conductors but sometimes, as on this occasion, it all came together into an exciting performance. Titurel seems to be closely miked whilst other members of the cast sometimes sound distant. Eliasson is sometimes unsteady in the title role. Waller is a clear and forceful Klingsor. Schenk is a decent Gurnemanz. But Rysanek as Kundry and Roar as Amfortas are the outstanding performers. Good choruses.
stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h38m; Act 2, 1h05m; Act 3, 1h11m.

Personal rating: Sound★★ Performance★★★★


1976. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 31 July 1976, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Peter Hofmann
Kundry:
Eva Randová
Gurnemanz:
Hans Sotin
Amfortas:
Bern Weikl
Klingsor:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra, cond. Horst Stein.

Recording: Available from operadepot.com .

Notes:

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, ; Act 2, ; Act 3, .



1977. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 25 July 1977, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
René Kollo
Kundry:
Eva Randová
Gurnemanz:
Hans Sotin
Amfortas:
Bern Weikl
Klingsor:
Karl Ridderbusch

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra, cond. Horst Stein.

Recording: Available from operadepot.com .

Notes:

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, ; Act 2, ; Act 3, .



1979. Bayreuth Festival

Live performance. Recorded from the broadcast of 27 July 1979, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Siegfried Jerusalem
Kundry:
Dunja Vejzovic
Gurnemanz:
Hans Sotin
Amfortas:
Bern Weikl
Klingsor:
Franz Mazura

Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra, cond. Horst Stein.

Recording: Available from operadepot.com .
Notes:

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, ; Act 2, ; Act 3, .



1979-1980. Berlin

Studio recording. Recorded 4-29 December 1979, 2-4 January, 15 April
and 1 July 1980, Berlin Philharmonic Hall.

Parsifal:
Peter Hofmann
Kundry:
Dunja Vejzovic
Gurnemanz:
Kurt Moll
Amfortas:
José van Dam
Klingsor:
Siegmund Nimsgern
Titurel:
Victor von Halem

Chorus of the German Opera, Berlin, and the Berlin Philharmonic Orch.,
cond. Herbert von Karajan.

Issued on LP: Deutsche Grammophon 2741 002, 1981.
Issued on CD: Deutsche Grammophon 413 347-2, 1984.

Notes: Hofmann's voice already shows signs of its imminent decline: his tone is quite rough in places. Vejzovic is wobbly throughout and sometimes shrill. As compensation, Kurt Moll is a fine Gurnemanz and van Dam is probably the best Amfortas on record. The Voice is sung by Hanna Schwarz. Karajan allows the orchestra to get rather too loud, relative to the singers, in some passages, such as the Flowermaidens scene. This is a pity when there are such fine Flowermaidens involved as Barbara Hendricks and Inga Nielsen. As we can also hear in the earlier, live recording from Vienna, Karajan concentrated on the beauty of this music, at the expense of the drama.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h50m; Act 2, 1h09m; Act 3, 1h18m. Similar to the average durations of performances 1882-1951: see the introductory notes at the start of this article.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★


1980. Bavarian Radio

Digital studio recording, May 1980, Munich.

Parsifal:
James King
Kundry:
Yvonne Minton
Gurnemanz:
Kurt Moll
Amfortas:
Bernd Weikl
Klingsor:
Franz Mazura
Titurel:
Matti Salminen

Choir and Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio, Tölzer Knabenchor,
cond. Rafael Kubelik.

Issued on CD: Arts Archives 43027-2, 2003

Notes: This recently issued recording allows us to hear a remarkable performance in excellent sound. It is widely regarded as one of the best recordings ofParsifal issued to date. In gratitude to Arts Archives, I shall overlook the fact that the illustration that ends the first act of the libretto, in their CD booklet, was stolen from this web-site!
In a 2013 review ofParsifal recordings for the BBC series "Building a Library", David Nice selected this recording as his top recommendation. Geoffrey Riggs (operacast.com) has noted that in this performance, Kubelik achieves the same "rapt quality" of the Knappertsbusch and Jochum sets. A splendid, solid Gurnemanz from Kurt Moll, here heard at his best. The First Flower is sung by Lucia Popp.
stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h52m; Act 2, 1h07m; Act 3, 1h16m. Similar to the "traditional" durations and in common with Karajan (see above).

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★★★


1981. Monte-Carlo

Studio recording. Recorded 29 June-3 July and 6-10 July 1981,
Palais de Congrès à Monte-Carlo.

Parsifal:
Reiner Goldberg
Kundry:
Yvonne Minton
Gurnemanz:
Robert Lloyd
Amfortas:
Wolfgang Schöne
Klingsor:
Aage Haugland
Titurel:
Hans Tschammer

Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra,
cond. Armin Jordan.

Issued on LP: Erato NUM 750105, 1982.
Issued on CD: Erato 2292-45662-2, 1990.
Issued on Videocassette: PAL/VHS ART 0P1.

Notes: Although recorded for the soundtrack of thefilm by Hans Jürgen Syberberg, this recording is a remarkable achievement in its own right. Jordan gives a conservative and well-balanced interpretation of the music and the playing of the Monte-Carlo orchestra is acceptable. To this author at least, Armin Jordan's tempi feel right.
Geoffrey Riggs (operacast.com) has described Robert Lloyd's Gurnemanz as, in places,as poetic as anyone who has ever sung this role (Kipnis included). But Riggs was not impressed by Schöne's Amfortas, which he described asunadulterated, anti-poetic, unmusical shtick.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h45m; Act 2, 1h07m; Act 3, 1h13m. Similar durations to Knappertsbusch in 1960.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★★


1981. Bayreuth

Live performances. Recorded July-August 1981, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Siegfried Jerusalem/ Manfred Jung
Kundry:
Eva Randová
Gurnemanz:
Hans Sotin
Amfortas:
Bernd Weikl/ Donald McIntyre
Klingsor:
Leif Roar
Titurel:
Matti Salminen

Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival, cond. Horst Stein.

Issued on laser disc: Philips PAL 070 410-1; NTSC 070 510-1, 1991; in set CDV-509-517, 1991.
Issued on Videocassette: PAL/VHS 070 410; NTSC/VHS 070 510-3, 1991.
Issued on DVD: DG 073 4328.

Notes: A different cast on the laser disc and VHS/DVD respectively. Horst Stein's conducting is again pedestrian. Jerusalem is in superb voice, but Randová is disappointing.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★


1982. Radio France.

Live concert performance, 30 October 1982 at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris

Parsifal:
Siegfried Jerusalem
Kundry:
Leonie Rysanek
Gurnemanz:
Kurt Moll
Amfortas:
Bernd Weikl
Klingsor:
Becht

Orchestre national de France, cond. Marek Janowski.

Issued on LP: HRE 412-2

Notes: A broadcast of an abridged performance given in theParsifal centenary year.


1983. Budapest

Live performance. Recorded and broadcast on 13 February 1983, Budapest.

Parsifal:
András Molnár
Kundry:
Katalin Kasza
Gurnemanz:
László Polgár
Amfortas:
Sandor Sólyom-Nagy
Klingsor:
András Faragó
Titurel:
Ferenc Szalma

Chorus and Orchestra of the Hungarian Opera,
cond. János Ferencsik.

Issued on LP: Hungaroton SLPX 12784-88, 1985.
Notes: sung in Hungarian.



1984. Welsh National Opera, Swansea

Recorded 17 to 25 June 1984 in Brangwyn Hall.

Parsifal:
Warren Ellsworth
Kundry:
Waltraud Meier
Gurnemanz:
Donald McIntyre
Amfortas:
Phillip Joll
Klingsor:
Nicholas Folwell
Titurel:
David Gwynne

Chorus and Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera,
cond. Reginald Goodall.

Issued on LP: EMI 27 0178 3, 1985
Angel DS-3972, 1985
Issued on CD: EMI CDS7 4912-8, 1988.
Notes: Warren Ellsworth was, at the time this recording was made, lacking in the upper register, although in later performances at ENO and Covent Garden he gave a better account of the rôle. Goodall's tempi were notoriously slow. In this recording, the second act is unreasonably slow; it drags. The outer movements, however, seem to benefit from the broad tempi. Every detail is laid bare, and we can hear instruments (such as the harps at the very end of the work) where they are not heard in other recordings, and melodic lines that are usually lost in orchestral texture. An ideal recording for anyone who wants to study the music with the score in front of them.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h57m; Act 2, 1h23m; Act 3, 1h26m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★


1985. Bayreuth Festival

Live performances. Recorded July-August 1985, Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal:
Peter Hofmann
Kundry:
Waltraud Meier
Gurnemanz:
Hans Sotin
Amfortas:
Simon Estes
Klingsor:
Franz Mazura
Titurel:
Matti Salminen

Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival, cond. James Levine.

Issued on LP: Philips 416 842-1, 1987
Issued on CD: Philips 416 842-2, 1987.

Notes: Soon after this recording, Hofmann redirected his career into that of a rock star. Here he sounds gritty and coarse. Simon Estes is an insipid Amfortas. The star of these performances was Waltraud Meier, whose insight into the predicament of Kundry is an unprecedented achievement. But even Meier is not heard here at her best -- compare the Barenboim/Berlin recording listed below. Apart from Meier this recording has very little to recommend it.

Levine's tempi are close to those of Goodall in the outer acts, slightly less glacial in the second act. Levine does not bring out the detail of Wagner's orchestration as Goodall did, and for which we can forgive the latter his slow tempi. Levine's conducting is beyond insensitive: it is vulgar and clumsy. He seems to be wallowing in, rather than illuminating, this music. It is hard to imagine why anyone thought that Levine was, or might become, a great Wagner conductor. He manages to make the second act as exciting as watching paint dry. Recommended for insomniacs only.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h59m; Act 2, 1h15m; Act 3, 1h24m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance


1989-90. Berlin

Studio recording. Recorded December 1989 - March 1990, Jesus-Christus- Kirche.

Parsifal:
Siegfried Jerusalem
Kundry:
Waltraud Meier
Gurnemanz:
Matthias Hölle
Amfortas:
José van Dam
Klingsor:
Günter von Kannen
Titurel:
John Tomlinson

Chorus of the German State Opera Berlin and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,
cond. Daniel Barenboim.

Issued on CD: Teldec 9031-74448-2, 1991. Later reissued at bargain price, without booklet.

Notes: A first-class performance by a cast of distinguished Wagnerians. Barenboim adopts similar tempi to Karajan, Armin Jordan and Georg Solti (see above) but with a habit of making slight rallentandi in advance of each climax. Waltraud Meier gives a highly intelligent interpretation of Kundry and is even better than she was on the earlier Goodall and Levine recordings: this is the best of her Kundry on record. Siegfried Jerusalem is heard here while still in his prime. Once again, van Dam convincingly conveys the agony of Amfortas. Geoffrey Riggs (operacast.com) hails José van Dam as the finest Amfortas on disc. This is a cast without a weak link.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h51m; Act 2, 1h08m; Act 3, 1h17m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★★★


1992. Metropolitan Opera, New York

Studio recording. Recorded April 1991 and June 1992, Manhattan Center.

Parsifal:
Plácido Domingo
Kundry:
Jessye Norman
Gurnemanz:
Kurt Moll
Amfortas:
James Morris
Klingsor:
Ekkehard Wlaschiha
Titurel:
Jan-Hendrick Rootering

Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera,
cond. James Levine.

Issued on CD: Deutsche Grammophon 437 501-2.

Notes: As with Maria Callas in the rôle of Kundry, Jessye Norman gives a lyrical interpretation that some might find lacking in drama. Domingo is in good form here and his much- criticised German is intelligible and acceptable. Levine's tempi are not quite as slow as in the live recording from Bayreuth, but still soporific. Unfortunately Levine was not the only conductor who thought that it was clever to play this music very slowly. All that is achieved by such folly is to make it difficult for the singers and in particular for Gurnemanz, with his long phrases. Levine is shown here to have inadequate musicality combined with a lack of respect for the singers. As in other recordings from the Met Opera in this period, the choruses are not always together. Overall a dull and unrewarding performance. All that Levine achieves here is to reduce Wagner's score to a syrupy, gelatinous treacle that serves to accompany the kind of kitschy production that Met audiences consider "sophisticated".

There is also a Metropolitan Opera video, conducted by Levine but with some changes of cast: Siegfried Jerusalem, Waltraud Meier, Bernd Weikl and Franz Mazura.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h55m; Act 2, 1h12m; Act 3, 1h22m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★


1997. Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam.

Live recording. Recorded and broadcast on 9 February 1997.

Parsifal:
Poul Elming
Kundry:
Violeta Urmana
Gurnemanz:
Robert Lloyd
Amfortas:
Wolfgang Schöne
Klingsor:
Günter von Kannen
Titurel:
Carsten Stabell

Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera, cond. Simon Rattle.

Issued on CD-ROM: Opera Classics, 1999.

Notes: Despite a tiresomely static and conceptually inane staging (by Klaus Michael Grüber), this production was redeemed by a musical interpretation at least as great as any the author has experienced. The orchestral playing is warm and full bodied, meditative when appropriate and thrilling in the more dramatic scenes. There is a splendid interpretation of the title role from Poul Elming, matched by the first Kundry of mezzo Violeta Urmana; both of them were later to sing these roles at the Bayreuth Festival. Günter von Kannen is a sinister Klingsor with a slight tendency to bark rather than sing. Wolfgang Schöne is a moving Amfortas. Norwegian bass Carsten Stabell is an ideal Titurel.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h41m; Act 2, 1h06m; Act 3, 1h13m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★ Performance★★★★★


2005. Vienna

Live recording, 23 June 2005 (with bits spliced from two other performances).

Parsifal:
Plácido Domingo
Kundry:
Waltraud Meier
Gurnemanz:
Franz-Josef Selig
Amfortas:
Falk Struckmann
Klingsor:
Wolfgang Bankl
Titurel:
Ain Anger

Chorus and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera, cond. Christian Thielemann.

Issued on CD: DGG 2006.

Notes: Good sound except for occasional stage noise, sometimes at unexpected moments. Thielemann has a commendable sense of line, which is well-suited to Wagner's endless "Melodie". He also has some idiosyncrasies, such as his long-held pauses. Under his baton the Vienna State Opera orchestra is a splendid instrument. Jens F. Laurson, writing for Ionarts, observed:At times Thielemann has Knappertsbusch-like gravitas and breadth, elsewhere he is swift and lean like Krauss and all is done with such a sure hand that the tempos only seem right and appropriate, never as if Thielemann were exerting his will on to the work.

The cast of soloists includes the lyrical Gurnemanz of Franz-Josef Selig and as Titurel the up-and-coming bass-baritone Ain Anger. Struckmann is a neurotic Amfortas and Bankl is a suitably villainous but slightly detached Klingsor. Waltraud Meier, once again recorded in her signature role of Kundry, now unfortunately sounds rather harsh: she is suitably decrepit in the first act but fortunately still has the range for the second act. Nobody is quite sure how old Plácido Domingo might be, since his year of birth is a well-kept secret, but it is certain that he was past sixty at the time of these performances. Perhaps a little too long in the tooth to be playing a teenager?

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h39m; Act 2, 1h08m; Act 3, 1h14m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★


2005. Teatro La Fenice, Venice

Live recording, March 2005.

Parsifal:
Richard Decker
Kundry:
Doris Soffel
Gurnemanz:
Matthias Hölle
Amfortas:
Wolfgang Schöne
Klingsor:
Mikolaj Zalasinski
Titurel:
Ulrich Dünnebach

Chorus and Orchestra of La Fenice,
cond. Gabor Ötvös.

Issued on CD: Dynamic, 2006. Also available on DVD.

Notes: Ötvös conducts singers and orchestra in a four-square no-nonsense performance in sensible tempi, speeding up a little towards the end. Matthias Hölle (a credible, serious Gurnemanz) and Wolfgang Schöne (a tired, unsteady Amfortas) have been singing their respective rôles in this opera for some time and both can be heard on other recordings. Doris Soffel, a mezzo with a good top B, has been around European houses in a few Wagner rôles such as Erda (contralto), Fricka and Waltraute (mezzo-sopranos). Richard Decker (here an expressive and accurate Parsifal) at this time was singing rôles such as Tristan, Tannhäuser and Paul (Die Tote Stadt). Dünnebach as Titurel is barely audible but that's the way it should be. Zalasinski is a lyrical and sinister magician.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h41m; Act 2, 1h06m; Act 3, 1h09m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★ Performance★★★


2007. Erl in the Austrian Tyrol.

Live compilation from performances given during July 2007 in the Passionsspielhaus Erl.

Parsifal:
Michael Baba
Kundry:
Martina Tomcic
Gurnemanz:
Manfred Hemm
Amfortas:
Thomas Gazheli
Klingsor:
Michael Kupfer
Titurel:
Michael Doumas

Orchestra & Chorus of the Tyrolean Festival, Wiltener Sängerknaben, conducted by Gustav Kuhn

Issued on CD: Col Legno, 2009.

Notes: An unusual recording from concert performances given in the little theatre at Erl. At the end of the first act prelude the orchestra is replaced with a pipe organ, which accompanies the first lines of Gurnemanz before the orchestra returns. The pipe organ turns up again, briefly, in the Transformation Music. The other noteworthy feature of these performances is their Boulez- like speed, which allows this recording, without cuts, to fit on to three CD's. The orchestral and choral work is excellent. The vocal soloists all are adequate to the task but variable in quality.
stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h31m; Act 2, 1h01m; Act 3, 1h05m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★


2009. St. Petersburg, Russia.

Live recording of performances given between 5-13 June 2009 in the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre.

Parsifal:
Gary Lehman
Kundry:
Violeta Urmana
Gurnemanz:
René Pape
Amfortas:
Evgeny Nikitin
Klingsor:
Nikolai Putilin
Titurel:
Alexei Tanovitski

Orchestra and chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre conducted by Valery Gergiev.

Issued on hybrid SACD: Mariinsky, 2009

Notes: Gergiev is playing at home with the musical forces of his Mariinsky and the result is coherent and effective. The tempo is held back, perhaps too much, in some of the slower passages such as the Act 1 Transformation and the Good Friday Music. Otherwise Gergiev's tempi are similar to those of Karajan, Knappertsbusch, Armin Jordan and Solti. The cast of soloists is young and vigorous. As Gurnemanz, René Pape is everything a devotee of this opera could wish for: expressive and clear. Up-and-coming heldentenor Gary Lehman is more than adequate in the title role, as those of us who have heard his interpretation of Tannhäuser had expected. I was overwhelmed by Violetta Urmana when I first heard her in the Amsterdam production (see above) and although she has now pushed up into soprano roles, she is still the best Kundry around at present (2009). This strong cast of principals is supported by an ensemble with a distinguished tradition of Wagner performances.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h52m; Act 2, 1h07m; Act 3, 1h18m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★★


2010. Amsterdam.

Live recording, 11 December 2010 at a concert performance in the Concertgebouw. Broadcast live on NL Radio 4.

Parsifal:
Klaus Florian Vogt
Kundry:
Katarina Dalayman
Gurnemanz:
Robert Holl
Amfortas:
Falk Struckmann
Klingsor:
Krister St. Hill
Titurel:
Ante Jerkunica

Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, State Male Choir ‘Latvija’ and Groot Omroepkoor, conducted by Jaap van Zweden.

Issued on hybrid SACD: Challenge Classics, May 2011. CC 72519. With a bonus DVD containing video clips of the performance.

Notes: At the turning point of this opera the title character is kissed by the seductive Kundry and suddenly, in a flash ofWelthellsicht, he understands everything about Amfortas and his wound. He realises that his mission is to find the wounded king and to heal him in body and spirit. At this climactic moment, the tenor has to change from "jugendlich" to a virile, heroic voice. The main difficulty I have with Klaus Florian Vogt is that he cannot make this transition. He has a light tenor voice, suitable for Tamino, that more or less works for Lohengrin but is just not right for Parsifal, despite the beauty of his tone and phrasing. Parsifal is a (spiritual) hero and the rôle requires a heroic voice, together with the ability to transition from naive youth to virile hero. At the end of the second act Vogt goes completely "nymphs and shepherds": truly bizarre.

Otherwise the performance on this recording is well cast. Robert Holl is an expressive and tireless Gurnemanz with clear diction: if it were not for the competition from several other great basses who are currently to be heard in this rôle he might have beenthe Gurnemanz of the decade. Katarina Dalayman delivers another great performance as Kundry: she can be both the penitent Kundry of the first act and the seductive temptress of the second act. Falk Struckmann again is a neurotic Amfortas. Jerkunica is a strong and youthful-sounding Titurel. St.Hill is an unusually lyrical Klingsor: his vocal line is, if anything, too legato. But a pleasant change from the usual barking Klingsors.

Jaap van Zweden's tempi are on the faster side of average but well judged. His no-nonsense reading of the score emphasises its devotional rather than its dramatic aspects. The orchestral playing is warm and transparent, with shimmering strings, luxuriant woodwinds and vibrant brass. Accurate and brilliant trumpets. Splendid singing from the choruses. The overall sound most likely benefits from the excellent acoustics of the Concertgebouw: this is obviously a concert hall acoustic and not a theatre.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h47m; Act 2, 1h06m; Act 3, 1h11m

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★


2011. Berlin

Live recording, Berlin 8 April 2011 at a concert performance in the Berlin Philharmonie.

Parsifal:
Christian Elsner
Kundry:
Michelle DeYoung
Gurnemanz:
Franz-Josef Selig
Amfortas:
Evgeny Nikitin
Klingsor:
Eike Wilm Schulte
Titurel:
Dmitri Ivashchenko

RSO Berlin and Radio Choir Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski.

Issued on hybrid SACD: PentaTone Classics, 2011.

Notes: In super-audio multichannel sound. Quite fast in places, even more so than Thielemann: for example in the first act Transformation and immediately afterAmfortas die Wunde. Christian Elsner is a wonderfully sensitive and expressive Parsifal, and Michelle DeYoung is a first-class Kundry, a mezzo with the necessary top notes and also capable of singing the Voice from Above at the end of the second act. Evgeny Nikitin here is on top form as Amfortas. Franz-Josef Selig is a solid Gurnemanz and I think even better here than on the Thielemann recording. The orchestra is splendid: I was most impressed by the accuracy and beauty of the strings, and by the sensitive playing of the woodwind, especially the principal clarinet. Great work from the chorus, prepared by chorus master Simon Halsey.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h36m; Act 2, 1h02m; Act 3, 1h07m

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★★


2013. London, Royal Albert Hall.

Live recording, 25 August 2013.

Parsifal:
Lars Cleveman
Kundry:
Katarina Dalayman
Gurnemanz:
Sir John Tomlinson
Amfortas:
Detlef Roth
Klingsor:
Tom Fox
Titurel:
Reinhard Hagen

The Hallé orchestra with the Hallé Youth Choir, Royal Opera Chorus, and Trinity Boys Choir. Conducted by Sir Mark Elder. Offstage conductor: Jamie Phillips.

Issued on CD: Hallé, HLD 7539, 2014.

Notes: This BBC Proms performance from August 2013 featured a strong team of experienced Wagnerian soloists, including a Parsifal and Kundry both from Sweden who had sung their roles at the Royal Swedish Opera and elsewhere. In the role of Gurnemanz we hear the veteran British Wagnerian, Sir John Tomlinson. Unfortunately at the time of this performance, his voice was sounding more than a little worn, although Sir John's technique carries him through it. Roth, Fox and Hagen had sung their roles before in Bayreuth and elsewhere. Mark Elder too has long operatic experience, for example at ENO, although he is not regarded as a Wagner specialist. Elder's tempi are well considered, in general, and his timings are similar to those of Kna recorded in 1962. The start of the second act however I found a little too slow and lacking in excitement. The sound on the recording is crystal clear with good balance (a benefit of recording a concert performance using multiple microphones). The harps can be heard clearly at the very end of the opera, as on the WNO recording, which is usually not the case either on recordings or in live performance.

stopwatchApproximate timings: Act 1, 1h52m; Act 2, 1h08m; Act 3, 1h18m.

Personal rating: Sound★★★★★ Performance★★★★



Right: Wagner conducting at the Vienna Musikverein, 14 March 1875.
RW conducting 14.03.75
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