Parsifal

Richard Wagner completed Parsifal in 1882. The same year it was premiered in the re-opening of the Bayreuth Festival. Parsifal was the only opera production that was played at the Festival in 1882. It was performed 16 times.

Parsifal Bayreuth Herheim

Parsifal - Stefan Herheim's production at Bayreuth.

 

 

 

 

Parsifal was produced in the following cities the first years after the world premiere in Bayreuth on 26 July 1882

Richard Wagner ordered Parsifal was to be performed no other place than the Bayreuth Festival. For 30 years Parsifal could not be performed outside Bayreuth.

1883 Bayreuth
1884 Bayreuth
1886 Bayreuth
1888 Bayreuth
1889 Bayreuth
1891 Bayreuth
1892 Bayreuth
1894 Bayreuth
1897 Bayreuth
1899 Bayreuth
1901 Bayreuth
1902 Bayreuth
1903 Paris (concert performance of highlights)
Milano (La Scala) (concert performance of highlights)
New York (Metropolitan Opera), complete
1904 Bayreuth
1906 Bayreuth
1908 Bayreuth
1909 Bayreuth
1911 Bayreuth
1912 Bayreuth
1913 Monte Carlo
Zürich
1914 Barcelona and 40 other theatres only in the first month of the year
Bayreuth

 

Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival. Directed by Uwe Eric Laufenberg. Reviews and comments.

Uwe Eric Laufenberg: Parsifal/Bayreuth

Foto: Enrico Nawrath/Bayreuther Festspiele

 

 

Amalie Materna as Kundry in Parsifal, Bayreuth, 1882.

Amalie Materna as Kundry in Parsifal, Bayreuth, 1882.

 

Richard Wagner in Sicily

Wagner went to Palermo, Sicily, to orchestrate Parsifal Act 3. He arrived at Hôtel des Palmes (now: Grand Hotel Et Des Palmes), on 5 November 1881 with his family. Although constantly struggling with chest spasms, Wagner was inspired by the beauty of Palermo and its surrounding, especially the cathedral (Duomo) in Monreale.

 

Cathedral (Duomo) in Monreale

He works and goes for a walk in the garden before lunch, but at table I can already see he is in an ill humor, and the champagne he orders does not cheer him up. I can think of no reason for it, except that his work is absorbing him. However, we drive to Monreale and delight in the splendid cathedral, feeling ourselves transported back into the spirit of that distant time as we gaze on this ideal representation of it.
(Cosima Wagner’s Diaries)

13 January 1882

On 13 January 1882 the orchestration of Parsifal is completed!

Returning home, I find R. very run down, and at lunch he even leaves the table for a while, but he soon returns and proposes the toast very cordially. After lunch we visit a house which has been offered us. He then works, and in the evening, in honor of Jouk., the chorus from Die Feen is played, then the witch's ballad (sung by R.) and the Overture to Die Feen. During the last of these R. goes out, I go to see what he is doing – he is putting the finishing touches on his score: "It gave me no rest," he says. The splendid sounds of the Tannhäuser march ring out, he comes in, and – all is completed! With this, as with all his other works, he had feared being interrupted by death – that is what he told us at lunch today! […] We drink to Parsifal. Our friends depart later than usual, we stay up, R. and I, and talk of the various completions (Tristan, Msinger –), and of life in general, and go off to bed in a mood of exaltation and peace. – A few more things I have to tell about this evening; first that R. told us the story behind his first ballad (boy and swan). Then, that he spoke about the orchestration of Parsifal; the wind instruments would complain, he said, but when he recalled how, in Martha, for instance, the four horns are used time and again in the stupidest way, then he felt comforted. – He tells me that the A-monor chord (as Kundry falls to the ground) will make an impression on me; the terror of sanctity flows from it, and it will have to be very beautifully played, he says.
(Cosima Wagner’s Diaries)

 

 

Cast 26 July 1882 (World Premiere)

Conductor Hermann Levi
Parsifal Hermann Winkelmann
Kundry Amalie Materna
Gurnemanz Emil Scaria
Amfortas Theodor Reichmann
Klingsor Karl Hill
Titurel August Kindermann
Two Grail Knights Anton Fuchs and Eugen Stumpf
Four Esquires Hermine Galfy, Mathilde Keil, Max Mikorey, Adolf von Hübbenet
Six Flowermaidens Pauline Horson, Johanna Meta, Carrie Pringle, Johanna André, Hermine Galfy, Luise Belce
Voice from Above, Eine Stimme Sophie Dompierre

 

Parsifal (complete) timings

3.38 Pierre Boulez, Bayreuth 1970
3.44 Clemens Krauss, Bayreuth 1953 (Jonathan Brown has 3.52)
3.49 Pierre Boulez, Bayreuth 1966
3.55 Hartmut Haenchen, Copenhagen 22 March 2012
3.58 Wilhelm Furtwängler, Milano 1951
4.02 Christian Thielemann, recorded at Staatsoper, Wien in June 2005 (Deutsche Grammophon)
4.04 Herman Levi, Bayreuth 1882
4.08 Michael Balling, Bayreuth 1904
4.10 Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth 1962
4.12 Wilhelm Furtwängler Bayreuth 1936
4.15 Felix Mottl, Bayreuth 1888
4.17 Herbert von Karajan (1981, Deutsche Grammophon)
4.19 Anton Seidl, Bayreuth 1897
4.22 Siegfried Wagner, Bayreuth 1909
4.23 Fischer, Bayreuth 1882
4.23 Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth 1952
4.25 Armin Jordan (Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Parsifal film, 1982) (according to the cover)
4.27 Karl Muck, Bayreuth 1901
4.28 Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth 1954
4.29 Kaehler, Bayreuth 1924
4.33 Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth 1951
4.33 James Levine, Bayreuth 1990
4.42 Arturo Toscanini, Bayreuth 1931

Sources: Jonathan Brown (Great Wagner Conductors), Derrick Everett, Per-Erik Skramstad, Hartmut Haenchen.

"The Master has already composed Parsifal to be very slow, so one doesn't need to add to this by also conducting it slowly." (Richard Strauss to the orchestra during rehearsals)

 

 

Timings Parsifal Vorspiel / Prelude Act 1

10'12" Herbert Kegel, Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra, 1978
10'23" Gustav Kuhn, Tiroler Festspiele, 2006
10'27" Pierre Boulez, Bayreuth, 1970 (Deutsche Grammophon)
11'03" Christian Thielemann, recorded at Staatsoper, Wien in June 2005 (Deutsche Grammophon)
11'05" Bruno Walter, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (From the Album Orchestral Music - Beethoven, L. Van / Mendelssohn, Felix / Weber, C.M. Von (Studio Recordings - 1920's and 30's, Vol. 1) (Walter) (1924-1927))
11'25" Bernard Haitink, Opernhaus Zürich, April 2007 (DVD)
11'26" Horst Stein, Bayreuth, 24 June - 15 July 1981 (DVD)
11'35" Erich Leinsdorf, SWR Sinfonieorchester (No year)
11'40" Kent Nagano, Baden-Baden, 6 and 8 August 2004 (DVD)
11'50" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1958
11'56" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1963
11'57" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1962
12'00" Hartmut Haenchen, Amsterdam, 1993
12'00" Hartmut Haenchen, Paris, 2008
12'03" Armin Jordan (Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Parsifal film, 1982)
12'03" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1964
12'05" Herbert Von Karajan, Wiener Staatsoper 1961
12'07" Clemens Krauss, Bayreuth, 1953
12'07" Hartmut Haenchen, Copenhagen, 2012
12'07" Jun Märkl, Semperoper Dresden, 19.Februar 2006
12'08" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1959
12'08" Hartmut Haenchen, Brüssel, 2011
12'15" Jaap van Zweden, Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Concert performance.
12'15" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1960
12'24" Philippe Jordan, Bayreuth 2012
12'31" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1961
12'32" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1956
12'41" Valery Gergiev, Marinski Orchestra 2010 (Marinskilabel)
12'47" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1957
12'47" Daniele Gatti, Metropolitan Opera, 2 March 2013, live on BBC Radio 3
12'59" Felix Mottl, Freiburg, 1907, piano roll
13' Richard Wagner, Bayreuth, 25 December 1878 (Voss: Die Dirigenten der Bayreuther Festspiele)
13'03" Otto Klemperer, Philharmonia, 1960
13'06" Arturo Toscanini, NBC Symphony, 1940
13'15" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1952
13'18" Daniele Gatti, Bayreuth, 2010 (Stefan Herheim's Parsifal production). In 2008 Gatti conducted the prelude one minute slower.
13'29" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 1954 (Melodram release timing. Seven Seas has 13'15" and Tara 13'35")
13'47" Daniel Barenboim, Berliner Philharmoniker, 1989-90. Available on Daniel Barenboim: Complete Wagner Operas (34 CD)
13'51" Reginald Goodall (EMI - 1984)
13'53" Hans Knappertsbusch, Berlin, 1943
13'57" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, 31 July 1951
13'59" Fritz Busch, Buenos Aires, 1936
14'03" Wilhelm Furtwängler, Berlin, 1938
14'13" Hans Knappertsbusch, Bayreuth, July-August, 1951
14'14" Herbert von Karajan (1981, Deutsche Grammophon)
14'18" Fritz Reiner, New York, 1938
14'20" Daniele Gatti, Bayreuth, 2008. Premiere of Stefan Herheim's Parsifal production. Two years later, Daniele Gatti conducted the prelude one minute faster.
14'30" Richard Wagner, Munich, 12 November 1880
15'06" Arturo Toscanini, London, 1935
15'30" Artur Bodanzky, New York, 1938
15'35" Rudolf Kempe, Wiener Philharmoniker, 1958 (Seraphim). Concert ending.
15'53" Karl Muck, Berlin, 1927
16'23" James Levine, Bayreuth, July/August 1985
16'38" Erich Kleiber, New York, 1946

Sources: Jonathan Brown (Great Wagner Conductors), Per-Erik Skramstad, Hartmut Haenchen, Vic White, Pieter Berghs

 

Parsifal (complete) - concert performance

Jaap van Zweden (conductor); Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; Falk Struckmann (Amfortas); Ante Jerkunica (Titurel); Robert Holl (Gurnemanz); Klaus Florian Vogt (Parsifal); Krister St. Hill (Klingsor); Katarina Dalayman (Kundry)

 

 

 

 

 

Said about Parsifal

Claude Debussy

One of the finest monuments in sound ever to have been raised to the everlasting glory of music.


Mark Twain

The first act of the three occupied two hours, and I enjoyed that in spite of the singing.
[...]
it seems to me that the chief virtue in song is melody, air, tune, rhythm, or what you please to call it, and that when this feature is absent what remains is a picture with the color left out. I was not able to detect in the vocal parts of "Parsifal" anything that might with confidence be called rhythm or tune or melody; one person performed at a time--and a long time, too--often in a noble, and always in a high-toned, voice; but he only pulled out long notes, then some short ones, then another long one, then a sharp, quick, peremptory bark or two--and so on and so on; and when he was done you saw that the information which he had conveyed had not compensated for the disturbance.
[...]
An ignorant person gets tired of listening to gymnastic intervals in the long run, no matter how pleasant they may be. In "Parsifal" there is a hermit named Gurnemanz who stands on the stage in one spot and practices by the hour, while first one and then another character of the cast endures what he can of it and then retires to die.
Mark Twain in a travel letter from Bayreuth


 

 

 

 

Parsifal: Reviews and Articles

Bayreuth 2011: Mark Berry on Stefan Herheim's Parsifal production

Bayreuth 2012: Mark Berry on Stefan Herheim's Parsifal production

Bayreuth 2016: Mark Berry on Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s Parsifal production

Germán A. Bravo-Casas: William Kinderman: Wagner’s Parsifal

Colin Bayliss: Parsifal and anti-Semitism

 

 

Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival

Bayreuth: Parsifal Productions

Bayreuth: Parsifal Conductors

My Bayreuth Experience