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Wagner: Parsifal
     

Wagner: Parsifal

by Plácido Domingo
 
The most obviously newsworthy aspect of this Parsifal, taken from live performances at the Vienna State Opera in June 2005, is that for the second time in less than a year Plácido Domingo has recorded a complete Wagner opera -- something that tenors in their mid-60s usually don't attempt. Unlike his acclaimed

Overview

The most obviously newsworthy aspect of this Parsifal, taken from live performances at the Vienna State Opera in June 2005, is that for the second time in less than a year Plácido Domingo has recorded a complete Wagner opera -- something that tenors in their mid-60s usually don't attempt. Unlike his acclaimed studio recording of Tristan und Isolde, this release casts Domingo in a role he has often sung in the opera house. He's recorded it before, too, under James Levine's direction at the Metropolitan Opera in the early 1990s. A decade on, his singing is just as beautiful, and his interpretation seems deeper and more perceptive than ever; it's obviously a role he feels a strong musical affinity for and evidently a spiritual one as well. But without slighting Domingo at all, it becomes clear quite early in the opera, long before the tenor even appears, that what really confers the highest distinction on this recording is the work of Christian Thielemann, who once again proves to be the finest Wagner conductor of his generation. Throughout this long opera -- and especially in its slowly unfolding scenes of ritual action at the ends of Acts I and III -- Thielemann magically sustains the music's large-scale journey at a consistently engrossing level, eliciting radiant sounds from the orchestra all the while. The remainder of the cast, too, is top-notch: Waltraud Meier's Kundry, long a fixture of the opera stage, achieves moments of truly scary intensity, and Falk Struckmann as Amfortas and Franz-Josef Selig as Gurnemanz are equally compelling in their mastery of Wagner's rich bass-baritone roles. Neither Domingo's fans nor those who simply love Parsifal will be disappointed by this deeply rewarding performance of Wagner's uniquely transcendent final opera.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
After an extended orchestral Prelude of very slow music and after a series of plot explications sung by baritones and basses with only the occasional soprano for light relief, the title character of Wagner’s Parsifal finally makes his entrance after 45 very long minutes. And, lo and behold, our hero turns out to be not the pure and innocent youth of the composer’s imagination but an old man – an old man with an astonishingly well-preserved voice, true, but an old man nevertheless. And therein lies to tragic flaw in this recording of Wagner’s Sacred Festival Stage Work: for all the seamless conducting of Christian Thielemann, for all the sumptuous playing of the Bühnenorchester der Wiener Staatsoper, for all the strong support of the rest of the cast, Plácido Domingo’s Parsifal is unbelievable.

Certainly, Domingo can sing the part: Domingo has the polished technique of a man a third his age and a golden tone that very few men of any age have ever been able to match. But his is an old voice – through the polish and the tone, one can hear slight but unmistakable creaks and faint but undeniable cracks. And because of these creaks and cracks, the listener finds it impossible to believe in Domingo’s portrayal. For all Domingo’s mature wisdom and acute musical intelligence, he cannot transform himself into a pure and innocent youth and his inability to create a credible character leaves a gapping hole at the center of the work. Following his rapturous Tristan, Thielemann’s Parsifal is nearly as ecstatic and even more cogent and he elicits wonderfully characterized performances from the cast, particularly from Waltraud Meier as the tortured femme fatale Kundry. But with an old man as the title character, this Parsifal is, ultimately, and unfortunately unbelievable.

Marred only by the occasional footfalls of marching Grail Knights, Deutsche Grammophon’s live sound from the Wiener Staatsoper is marvelously quiet and fabulously realistic.
Gramophone - Mike Ashman
Christian Thielemann conducts [Parsifal] like a psychological thriller.... At one and the same time this is a beautiful Parsifal...a modern Parsifal...and a new look at Parsifal, informed by Thielemann's experience and knowledge of a great tradition.... [Domingo's] commitment to the role is undiminished and his understanding of the text is superior to earlier recordings under Levine.... A major release.
San Francisco Chronicle - Joshua Kosman
Thielemann['s]...mastery of this score produces a performance of extraordinary subtlety, power and sonic splendor.... Domingo's contribution is nearly as impressive, combining the singer's trademark stamina and ardor with a wondrous sense of delicacy.
Dallas Morning News - Scott Cantrell
The new Vienna Parsifal, captured in live performances in June 2005, starts splendidly, with rich, spacious sound.... Christian Thielemann is one of our most eminent Wagnerians, and the orchestra responds luxuriously. [Grade: B]

Product Details

Release Date:
05/09/2006
Label:
Deutsche Grammophon
UPC:
0028947760061
catalogNumber:
000657402
Rank:
15749

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Parsifal, opera, WWV 111

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