Parsifal. Zürich Opera 2007. Production: Hans Hollmann. Conductor: Bernhard Haitink. Cast: Christopher Ventris (Parsifal), Yvonne Naef (Kundry), Matti Salminen (Gurnemanz), Michael Volle (Amfortas), Rolf Haunstein (Klingsor), Andreas Hörl (Titurel).
This Parsifal was recorded live at the Zurich Opera House in April 2007 during the run of performances, of which I attended one.
Hans Hollmann´s production is from 1996 and has now been replaced. Hollmann presents what I consider an essentially religious view of the work: Mist and light. Water, purification? Abstract, quadratic and aesthetic designs. Hollmann says: "Wagner presents only possibilities - Parsifal can never be wholly fathomed by interpretation."
Well said. However, Hollmann seems to have restricted, rather expanded on Wagner´s work, though the simplicity of the sets rather act as a backdrop for Wagner´s glorious music. Not the worst interpretation at all, but also not ideal: In both Act 1 and 3 we are in a 19th century class-room. Mist, water. On the wall : Wasser. Later: Blut. The knights are blind. In Act 2 a mirror flips in Klingsors imaginary castle surrounded by candelabres. We could be in Musée des Art et Métier in the middle of an Umberto Eco novel.
Bernhard Haitink was never a favourite of mine, though he probably is the raison d´etre for this DVD. Some find him close to ideal in this repertoire. To me, he lacks a certain ggrandiosity and above all the sense of dynamics. Both Barenboim and Thielemann, among the presently active conductors have this. Haitink lingers too long in the middle ground without approaching the extremes. Valery Gergiev, coincidentally, presents with much the same type of reading on his newly released Parsifal CD.
Yvonne Naef is a wonderfully darkvoiced and secure as Kundry, but rather restrained on stage and nowhere close to Waltraud Meier´s definitive Kundry. Christopher Ventris is a fine Parsifal, but the best performances come from Matti Salminen and Michael Volle.
Salminen has one of those voices which just ages wonderfully well: No wobbles a la John Thomlinson, but instead he has kept his firm steady tone, His stage presence, of course, is intact.
And Michael Volle, just about ideal for Amfortas and probably the best Amfortas I have heard live.
Adequate justification for a DVD? Probably not. Why would one return to this version, now that we have Barenboim/Kupfer? Not for Salminen, who can be seen on the Baden-Baden DVD with Waltraud Meier, though I do find Haitink superior to Kent Nagano. And next month we will see the new Met Parsifal with JonasKaufmann and René Pape, probably to be released on DVD as well, which will be a strong competitor unless the staging turns out to be completely hopeless..
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Christopher Ventris: 4
Yvonne Naef: 4
Matti Salminen: 4-5
Michael Volle: 5
Hans Hollmann´s production: 3
Bernhard Haitink: 4
Overall impression: 3
Overall impression: 3