Saturday, September 14, 2013

Richard Wagner's Parsifal conducted by Pierre Boulez

   After Richard Wagner gain success as composer, librettist, and theoretician in musical aesthetics and entrepreneur, in last years of his life he became the prominent and widely-known figure of German cultural life. He was a person of difficult character and strange views, trying to join his radical esthetics with Buddhism and anti-Semitism, Schopenhauer inspirations with his own philosophic concepts. Although he was complex and difficult personality, his operas and musical drama oeuvres can be considered as climax of romantic era, a crowning achievement of 19th century spirituality, just the way Beethoven’s symphonies closed the classical music period. This comparison is not accidental, just like Beethoven’s last symphonies paved the way for romantic style, Wagner’s last dramas had shown the tendencies for new century, although some of the consequences of these processes are now difficult to reconcile.
   The last, 16th work in series of Richard Wagner’s stage works is Parsifal. The libretto of Parsifal is loose version of early 13th century famous romance Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, knight, epic poet and Minnesinger. Story of Parsifal young knight who fulfils prophecy and saves the order from decay is universal idea in legends of all cultures. Although there are no clear indications of racist or anti-Semitic content in this work, there were heavy arguments on some symbolic meanings Wagner used. Connection of negative characters with some stereotypes and situations can be referenced this way, but in fact the whole work can be interpreted as the eternal struggle between good and evil. Kundry and Klingor are characters who can be seen both as connected to enemies of Christ. In this “most Christian” of Wagner’s works main character kills Klingor and gives absolution Kundry what makes her die. 

Pierre Boulez – Richard Wagner – Parsifal (1971)

   Wagner’s attitude has been expressed more clearly in his writings and letters, where he was developing his anti-Semitic beliefs. During preparations to the premiere of Parsifal, Wagner has objections against conductor Hermann Levi whom he demanded to be Christianized before premiere. But Levi was chosen by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who was also donating the whole production, and Wagner wrote to king some letters with declarations he is agree, but in still offensive style. Not only in this field Wagner was strange and his behavior was the subject of many analyses. He was very unstable and difficult as a writer and as composer, and his music with ecstatic sublimity, strong emotions and crazy epigone estheticism allows us to feel the atmosphere of dying romanticism. 
   Parsifal is huge dramatic work, which was neither musical drama nor opera. This work became Wagner’s artistic testament. Composer called it ein Bühnenweihfestspiel (A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage) and this denomination could serve as an explanation of his real intentions. For the first time it was premiered during Bayreuth Festival in 1882 and until 1903, when Parsifal was shown in Metropolitan Opera in New York, theatre in Bayreuth was the proprietor of exclusive license for staging this work. In Europe this monopole granted by composers will and copyright rights expired ten years later. Produced as a part of Bayreuth Festival with Pierre Boulez in 1970, one year later recording by Deutsche Grammpohon this is one of most rational and psychological renditions of Parsifal. Gwyneth Jones as Kundry is so dramatic, Franz Crass as Gurnemanz is powerful enough to build célèbre sensuality. Other two soloists are Stomas Stewart performing as Amfortas and James King singing Parsifal. Four and a half of a star.

No comments:

Post a Comment