[Met Performance] CID:257120
Parsifal {230} Metropolitan Opera House: 04/10/1979.


Metropolitan Opera House
April 10, 1979


Parsifal................Jon Vickers
Kundry..................Christa Ludwig
Amfortas................Bernd Weikl
Gurnemanz...............Martti Talvela
Klingsor................Vern Shinall
Titurel.................Paul Plishka
Voice...................Isola Jones
First Esquire...........Elizabeth Volkman
Second Esquire..........Ariel Bybee
Third Esquire...........Charles Anthony
Fourth Esquire..........John Carpenter
First Knight............Dana Talley
Second Knight...........Philip Booth
Flower Maidens: Betsy Norden, Louise Wohlafka, Elizabeth Volkman,
Alma Jean Smith, Loretta Di Franco, Isola Jones

Conductor...............James Levine

Review of Richard Dyer in the Boston Globe

A great 'Parsifal' heard at the Met

NEW YORK - A bad performance of "Parsifal" - and most performances of "Parsifal" are bad -can leave you convinced that this is the most repellent of all great works of art. Sanctimonious and antireligious at the same time, vilely anti-Semitic, covertly homoerotic, overtly misogynistic, "Parsifal" can seem not merely confused, but evil, in a performance that does not do the glorious and redeeming music justice.

But in a great performance, which means a musically great performance, "Parsifal" can seem to be about some of the other things Wagner meant it to be about, to be about suffering and redemption and love. And the performance of the "stage consecrating festival play" that is currently on view at the Metropolitan is musically magnificent - in fact, it is perhaps the event of the season (the fact that tickets for the Guild Benefit performance tomorrow afternoon, one that will be nationally broadcast are scaled up to $75 apiece attests to this).

Credit goes first to James Levine, the conductor. His is not the weighty, thoughtful performance of the Knappertsbusch kind that most of us grew up with on recordings; it is also not the more modern, streamlined kind of performance that Pierre Boulez gave at Bayreuth, inaugurating another kind of tradition. Instead it is always clear, always beautiful, always forward-moving, and we can hear that this is the work of the composer who wrote the more forward-moving music-dramas of his own youth. One of Levine's great legacies to the Metropolitan will be the current standard of the orchestra's playing, which is the current standard of the world - the sound of this "Parsifal" was wonderful.

The piece was also very strongly cast; each principal represented the world standard for his role. Parsifal is one of Jon Vickers' finest roles; he does fill in a progression Wagner leaves blank and offstage between the guileless fool of the beginning and the wise and humane figure of the end. Bernd Weikl sang rather than agonized the role of Amfortas, and Paul Plishka was a commanding Titurel. Martti Talvela sang Gurnemanz' Act I music with great nobility and beauty; he, however, tired before the last act.

Nothing about this performance was more eagerly anticipated than the return to New York opera after several seasons of absence of the great Christa Ludwig. Ludwig's voice has diminished in power and she has, now, to hook into her high notes from below. But you'd be a fool to concentrate on that - her voice, as it ages, has become even more beautiful, if that is possible, as if it were returning to its original elements of fire and earth and air (which are the principal aspects of the character Kundry); the tenderness and delicacy and sympathy and guile of her delivery of the first part of "Ich sah das Kind" will long linger in the memory. And, like the greatest Kundrys, Ludwig dominated the last act, where she has only four notes to sing.

The rest of the singing was more variable and the production itself, a Merrill-O'Hearn collaboration that goes back nearly a decade, is poor - it concentrates so much on handling the difficult transformation illusions in each act that what you have to look at for most of the time is absurd, nothing more so than Klingsor's poison-flower garden, populated by Flower Maidens who seem to have wandered in from "Iolanthe."

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