Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Any Given Friday

As J alluded to below, we put on our game faces last Friday and took in this 1981 Parsifal vid from Bayreuth, all part of our training regimen for the big game with Hep, Waltraud, Rene "Say Hey" Pape, and Jimmy in May. Parsifal is Siegfried Jerusalem, Kundry is Eva Randova, Bernd Weikl--Amfortas, and Hans Soltin is the 'Manz. Horst Stein QBs. Unless you have access to J's stash, I'm not sure where you can find it.

While it may have been all the delicious food and drink with which J plied me, Parsifal seems to be the Wagner most unfit for video. The big grail scenes, which are hypnotic to listen to on the ear phones, and (I'm told) a near spiritual revelation in the opera house, just don't register so good on the small screen.

That said, the production is super priddy, with trippy forest/garden/grail realm backdrops in green and hot pink, and the intra-act scene changes are pulled off with nice flourish and minimal cheesy fx. The costuming is from the "everyone gets a mumuu" school of Wagner fashion, but what are you going to do?

Siegfried Jerusalem sounds buckets better than in the Met Ring vids of seven years later. Not quite as demanding a role I suppose, but still--he's in full control here and produces some real nice sounds. Also, his 70s white boy fro is far more flattering than the feathered bidness he sports as Siegfried. Eva Randova turns out a very memorable Kundry. She looks the part very well--the perfect "oh hot--no, wait, she's crazy! Run!" face to bring it all home at the end of Act II. Soltin brings an especially lovely baritone and long sweet phrases to Gurnemanz. Weikl did an ok Amfortas I guess, but I've kind of forgotten now so it must not have been so especial.

Rather, that accolade is reserved for the muy delicioso Patron Silver which saw us through Act III, a taste of Jenufa to come, and my unexpected detour on the JMZ at 3 in the morning.

Private to L train: F your mom.


Lisa Hirsch said...

You know, when the Lenhoff Parsifal was on its way to San Francisco, friends and I got together for some prep, and that very video was what we watched. Five hours later, we were in shock, and not in a good way: so static! So traditional! We made a lot of bad jokes, and before the performance we were attending, we fortified outselves well.

End of Act I comes along, and we look at each other in amazement, because, well, that production really is on another planet. And, as you note, Parisfal is a terrible opera for video.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen the Hans-Jürgen Syberberg film (on Kultur VHS)? Any good?

Henry Holland said...

A mere blog comments entry cannot begin to convey how much I hated that SF Lenhoff production. I'd actually seen it at ENO about a year before and I was all but grabbing people in St. Martins Lane to tell them how hideous it was. I only went to the SF run because of Kurt Moll, whom I'd never heard live before (my loss, totally--even at that stage of his career, what a voice!)

Forget the 3 grey walls that made up the set that were sooooooo boring to look at for 4+ hours (eye fatiuge). Forget the huge pile of sand that for no reason any of my group could figure out why, was dumped on the stage, very loudly, in the middle of someone singing. Forget the fugly costumes, especially the ones for the blummenmadchen that made them look like the monks who smack themselves in the head with boards in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Forget the cocoon that Kundry emerges from that made her look like a larva. Forget that Parsifal looked like the "trustifarians" (a rich kid who has dreadlocks that are possibly harboring living things and ratty, dirty clothes) that I'd see in the parking lot at Phish shows trying to score dope. No, all that's utterly predictible in these dark, evil days we call "Regietheatre".

No, what made me want to find Lenhoff and smack him upside the head was this: Kundry lived and Amfortas died. Allow that to sink in, will you? Kundry lived and Amfortas died. That is so.....wrong.....it boggles the mind. Leave aside the fact that Regietheatre practically requires that the plot be fucked with so that it can fit the *shudder* concept *shudder* it totally rendered all that had gone before it meaningless. Oh, sure, there was a two page explanation by the dramaturge (always a bad sign) in the program notes at ENO, but it was a crime against Wagner's glorious opera.

What made that even worse is that it wasn't even an original idea--Harry Kupfer's production that I saw at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden a few years prior had the same, exact thing. At least *that* production had John Tomlinson singing the hell out of 'manz and some truly transcendent conducting by Daniel Barenboim. No, the Lenhoff production is an abomination and hey! it's preserved for posterity on DVD with Nagano conducting.

The Met DVD is quite excellent--what a balm for the eyes and ears that is--it's a beautifully filmed performance that conveys what I saw in the house a few years later with a different cast (and no dancing daffodils). Kurl Moll is in magesterial form and Jerusalem, Meier and Mazura are fantastic; Levine actually conducts the opera in under 6 hours, too! Best of all, when Guernemanz rhapsodizes about nature, we actually see something other than *gasp* grey walls.

Syberberg's film is very interesting but I just can't abide lip-synced opera performances; it's available on DVD as well, if that's not an issue for you.