Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus with James Levine
DG 073 032-9
A no-nonsense approach, beloved of American audiences, with exceptional musical values. Otto Schenk makes no attempt to interpret the work or give it any sort of psychological insight. If anything he oversimplifies the action to produce a regular series of beautiful stage pictures. In this he is amply supported by Gunther Schneider-Siemssen's highly romanticised settings and Rolf Langenfass' costumes.
Siegfried Jerusalem is an heroic Parsifal, deeply committed to the narrative and knowing how to remain still for long periods of time yet remain attentive and alert. Waltraud Meier is able to communicate the complexity of Kundry and offer a suitably alluring temptress in the second act. The Flower Maidens sing wonderfully but look as if they have escaped from a latter-day holiday camp for hippies. The male choral singing in the outer acts is stirringly virile and James Levine eschews all potential mawkishness.
If you want to get to know the work this is probably the closest you'll come to Wagner's own stage directions, but be aware that there are precious few stagings today which will be as undemanding as this. James Levine lifts the emotional and spiritual intensity well above the pedestrian quality of the visual image and thus makes the whole well work purchasing. BH