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Subject: Re: Parsifal - Nezet-Seguin, Levine, Gatti
From: David H Spence <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:David H Spence <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 5 Mar 2018 10:37:52 -0500
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A few more comments may be more worthwhile.  The '365 minutes' reference could quite 
adequately refer to the two Parsifal's that from the Metropolitan Opera made it to dvd 
release - the Levine and Gatti this way.  Levine (1985) is 279 minutes long and on his 
studio recording, from looking it up, 268 minutes, approximately five minutes longer than 
the performance taken from the stage.

Here is an interesting quote to bring one or two aspects of what goes on in Parsifal, after 
mention of the sense of agony Fischer-Dieskau brings to Amfortas for Georg Solti (as an 
aside) - from Stereophile, Richard Lehnert, wrapping up what conclusion he makes about 
the Barenboim studio recording:

"I couldn't decide whether this was the most dramatic Parsifal I've ever heard, or the least. 
The characters felt far more like real human beings to me than the usual sleepwalking 
archetypes, and at the same time struck me as simply the collective unconscious given 
superb voice. Either way, this is the most satisfying Parsifal ever recorded."

Jose Van Dam, so mellifluous for Karajan on DGG, does with darker voice and some 
encouragement from Barenboim (1989) as well, touches more of a human chord as 
Amfortas his second time at it on disc.  Levine has Karajan in mind as to who to model what 
he is doing after during his later Met renditions of Parsifal, starting from the early 1990's.  
The dvd is from 1992.  Levine, in none of the three performances in question, gets in the 
way of his singers, but curiously, given all of what Levine puts into the one in 1985, there is 
at times not quite the entire fleshing out of the characters one might expect from such an 
approach, Hofmann keeping some saving of energy in mind and Meier still feeling her way 
into Kundry, which several years later for Barenboim at finally at last better tempos for her.  

Fatally, about the Nezet-Seguin, even keeping in mind the histrionics of Herlitzius, though 
without seeing it on stage (there was no movie-cast), the music-making seemed almost 
entirely devoid of interest in the singers making much of any dramatic contribution at all, 
with so much uniformly loud playing from the Met orchestra - 'transparent' to other ears 
and again between stage and pit, kind of a subduing of the parts of Amfortas and 
Gurnemanz (Pape a little less solid vocally than five years earlier).

There was so much both at once compelling and surprising about the 1985 Levine, lots of 
Tristan in this Parsifal with especially the Good Friday spell and Amfortas passages in Act 
Three than I was prepared for.  The 1999 Tristan from the Met I found Levine a little cold 
and uncharacteristic for the time from him, detached, choppy - with Eaglen and Heppner.
In 2008 with Voigt and Robert Dean Smith, Smith's being there which fully talked me into 
attending the movie-cast, i am being tongue-in-cheek, a little more Parsifal-like in its very 
smooth, connected, yet still expressive line, than the Parsifal from 1985.  

The anger from a bland First Act Isolde of Deborah Voigt and the physical agony of Smith's 
Tristan, though not musically devoid of feeling, sounded a little submerged or yielding in the 
abstract Dieter Dorn production to the flowing musical line overall, thoroughly mastered by 
Levine by then.  Equally lovely was especially the Third Act of the Christmas season 2014 
Meistersinger, but held back in so many ways the spring 2011 Walkure, where playing and 
also much of the singing (Terfel, Voigt especially) sounded  two-dimensional and detached.

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