[Met Performance] CID:205680
Parsifal {209} Metropolitan Opera House: 03/10/1966.

(Debut: Lilian Sukis

Metropolitan Opera House
March 10, 1966


Parsifal................Sándor Kónya
Kundry..................Régine Crespin
Amfortas................George London [Last performance]
Gurnemanz...............Jerome Hines
Klingsor................Morley Meredith
Titurel.................Justino Díaz
Voice...................Ruza Baldani
First Esquire...........Mary Ellen Pracht
Second Esquire..........Shirley Love
Third Esquire...........Charles Anthony
Fourth Esquire..........Dan Marek
First Knight............Robert Nagy
Second Knight...........Rober Goodloe
Flower Maidens: Heidi Krall, Joy Clements, Lilian Sukis [Debut],
Loretta Di Franco, Marcia Baldwin, Nedda Casei

Conductor...............Georges Prętre

Production..............Herbert Graf
Stage Director..........Nathaniel Merrill
Designer................Leo Kerz

Parsifal received four performances this season.

Review of Irving Kolodin in the March 26, 1966 issue of the Saturday Review

A French "Parsifal"

Although Claude Debussy is commonly listed among the anti-Wagnerites, he was also responsible for the description of "Parsifal" as "one of the loveliest monuments of sound ever raised to the serene glory of music." The essay in which this statement is contained does not spell out in every detail the specifics behind this opinion, but there are other French musicians (descended from the line that produced Debussy) who are capable of such a demonstration. In the forefront currently are Georges Prętre, who conducted, and Régine Crespin, who had the pivotal part of Kundry in the first Metropolitan "Parsifal" in five years.

Affiliated with them was a new Parsifal, Sándor Kónya. This made a match of three essentially lyric performers, with both singers possessed of the vocal sound and the artistic sensitivity to complement Prętre's idea of what Wagner was about in this score. The result, especially in Act II, was of a pervasive feeling and a common accent that glorified an aspect of "Parsifal" too often slighted. That is its flow of flexible melody and insinuating tonal colorations, not only in the voices but also in the orchestra. Contributing to this outcome was not only a superior group of Flower Maidens (effectively "led" by Heidi Krall) but also a better- sounding Klingsor from Morley Meredith than from any predecessor in years.
Much of this, of course, wars against the principle that "Parsifal" is a heavily Germanic work that can best be recreated by those to whom its ethic as well as its language are in the bloodstream. But just as Renoir found something French in the physical Wagner to recreate in his famous portrait, so such fellow countrymen as Faure, Franck, and Chausson found something especially appealing to their taste in the spiritual Wagner. There is, indeed, a substantial segment of French music that is not merely Wagner-derived but, specifically, "Parsifal"-derived. In this respect, then, Debussy was not enunciating a revolutionary opinion but providing a summation for what was widely accepted among the French avant-garde as then constituted.

Prętre's Prelude was beautifully defined, as was everything else about the score that was purely orchestral. This was in the nature of the expectable, but not so the largely underplayed Kundry of Crespin. Her altogether novel concept placed a feelingful reliance in delicacy rather than force in the sometimes clumsy seduction episode of Act II (which she performed in a black and crimson gown that could be worn to an after-opera reception without change). It was cleverly calculated, vocally, to make the climaxes impressive within the range of a voice that cannot really compare - in quantity - with those Kundries who are also Brünnhildes and Isoldes. This was accomplished by treating "Ich sah' das Kind" almost as a chanson, in a manner that fitted both key words of Debussy's summation - lovely" and "serene." In some circumstances it might have been insufficient, but in those that prevailed under Prętre's finely calculated dynamic values it was arresting by its subtlety alone.

Kónya's Parsifal will doubtless grow in definition and stature as his ease in the part accumulates, but he has, at present, a blend of qualities altogether uncommon. First among them is his ability to suggest the youthful innocent imagined by Wagner, who must yet have a vocal power to dominate the scene in "Amfortas, die Wunde." This was not the best of Kňnya's effort by any means, for he lunged at it, vocally, rather than attacking it with confidence; but this was a tolerable insufficiency considering what he could do with the quieter moments of Act III, and his capacity to shape a vocal line as he does in "Lohengrin" and "Meistersinger."

Acts I and III were somewhat different, as well as lower on the scale of values, perhaps because of a lack of more French-trained musicians to take the place of the Germans who were absent in any case. Neither the Gurnemanz of Jerome Hines nor the Amfortas of George London is what it used to be - the former for what sounds like a steady erosion of his topmost tones, the latter for what appeared to be an aftermath of his recent operation, which made his upper register extremely tentative. Justino Diaz as the offstage Titurel may be in the wings for a future venture as Gurnemanz as well.

Doubtless this series of performances is the last that shall be seen of the present makeshift production, with its projections by Leo Kerz and semicircular ramp for playing space. But it points the way in which, with more illusive projections, an imaginative employment of the turntable, and stage wagons to be available in Lincoln Center, "Parsifal" could be reborn as a Metropolitan specialty. Nathaniel Merrill's unusually adept staging of the Flower Maidens episode showed a resource of good ideas that may, in the brighter uptown future, achieve full expression.

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