WAGNER: Parsifal

Having established itself as a resource for those with an interest in the rarer corners of the
repertory, Dynamic here makes a creditable move into more familiar territory. True, Parsifal is
not exactly La Boheme at the box office; nonetheless, the opera attracts the finest singers and
directors, so Dynamic has to be willing to endure invidious comparisons here.

But they need not be invidious at all. While by no means a top-rank performance, the strengths
here deserve recognition. After a brief opening montage of Venice, conductor Gabor Ötvös enters
the pit to lead the Fenice players in a forthright but impassioned reading of the prelude. Ötvös
does not linger; the long first act takes just about 100 minutes. Other conductors have taken
longer, some considerably so, but the approach here pays respect to both the anxious, unsettled
mood of the first act and to Wagner’s unique spiritual aura.

Denis Krief takes credit as director, set, costume and light designer. There is a zen-like purity to
his conception (although thankfully no faux-Japanese elements intrude). A floor of rough
wooden planks lies bare for acts one and three; the second has ominous walls of curved metal,
rather like shavings off Disney Hall in Los Angeles. A few pale white stones and bisecting
beams, suggesting a cross, serve to complete the stage picture in the first two acts. Krief’s
costumes are in dark, muted colors, except for Klingsor’s. Singer Mikolaj Zalasinski bravely
takes the stage in a white thong, with a kimono-like shawl providing a modest amount of

Visually then, this Parsifal offers the eye little, but Krief has real talent as a director. All the
singers inhabit their roles with commitment, moving comfortably and naturally in the bare space.
Only Kundry’s already dated pseudo-punk haircut mars the total picture, although the
ultra-realistic deceased swan may produce a few giggles.

The cast list may not boast starry names, but there are no weak links. Tall and fairly athletic,
Richard Decker doesn’t play up the “fool” side of Parsifal, instead projecting a Siegfried-like
energy. At points his voice sounds about ready to wear itself out, and then he recovers his
faculties and soldiers on. Matthias Hölle holds the evening together with his determined, serious
Gurnemanz, a father figure to the knights and our guide to Parsifal’s transformation in act three.
In a role where an unimpressive singer can really do some damage, Hölle’s success cannot be
underestimated. Wolfgang Schöne doesn’t make as much of an impression as Amfortas, but the
costuming here fails to suggest more strongly his agonizing wound. Doris Soffel also has to work
against some unflattering costuming, but she understands Kundry’s complex character. More
seductive women, in voice and physicality, have sung the role; Soffel gives as much of herself to
the role as any singer can.

Krief may have decided to court controversy with the amount of nudity — male as well as female
— in the bisexual orgy of act two. The problem is, the admirable physiques of professional
dancers amidst the chorus of attired flower maidens does not suggest sexual corruption so well.
The distraction factor can’t be ignored either, with Decker kneeling at one point to sing with bare
buttocks exposed right over his shoulder. Krief also “gives up” on the spear toss from Klingsor to
Parsifal with an awkward black-out.

But with almost any production of any opera, nits can be picked. With only a few other DVDs of
the opera on the market, lovers of Parsifal should give this Dynamic release a viewing, despite
the additional cost of an unnecessary third disc.

Chris Mullins

image_description=Richard Wagner: Parsifal
product_title=Richard Wagner: Parsifal
product_by=Richard Decker, Matthias Hölle, Wolfgang Schöne, Doris Soffel, Mikolaj Zalasinski, Ulrich D¸nnebach, Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, Gabor ÷tvös, conductor. Denis Krief, director, set, costume and light designer.
product_id=Dynamic 33497 [3DVDs]