JENUFA and PARSIFAL

Two new releases from C MAJOR/UNITEL: Jenůfa and Parsifal

STAATSOPER BERLIN JENUFA Inszenierung: Damiano MichielettoBühne: Paolo FantinKostüme: Carla TetiLicht: Alessandro carlettiCamilla Nylund, Evelyn Herlitzius

Jenůfa Leoš Janáček – Opera in three acts after a play by Gabriela Preissová

Berlin State Opera and Chorus Conductor: Simon Rattle   

Stage Director: Damiano Micheletto  

Set Designer: Paolo Fantin

Costume Designer: Carla Teti   

Video Director: Beatrix Conrad

Recorded live at Staatsoper Unter den Linden in February 2021

Camilla Nylund – Jenůfa

Evelyn Herlitzius – Kostelnička           

Ladislav Ekgr – Števa  

Stuart Skelton – Laca

In a few words: Janáček finished his work on Jenůfa in 1902 and its premiere was given in Brno in 1904. By the time the composer had completed this, his first successful work for the stage, the Italian Verismo operas of Leoncavallo, Giordano and Mascagni had caught on with an opera-going public hungry for new works.

Finding his musical roots in his native Moravia (then part of the Austrian Empire) Janáček developed a style all his own that blossomed as he matured into a nationalistically inspired sound like that of his fellow countrymen of an earlier generation: Smetana and Dvořák. Janáček’s operatic music tapped into the folk melodies of his birth country but adhering to the spoken inflections of the Czech language.

About this recording: Jenůfa calls for a cast of six strong principals, which the C Major/Unitel release delivers 100%.

Both soprano Camilla NylundasJenůfa and soprano Evelyn Herlitzius as Kostelnička are superb singing actresses who compellingly inhabit their characters.   

Ladislav Ekgr as Števa is a fine lyric-spinto tenor at ease in his anti-hero role.

Australian tenor Stuart Skelton nails the tricky balance between the objectionable and redeemable aspects of his conflicted character in a fully drawn performance.

Stage director Damiano Micheletto creates a visually strong production with the design team of Paolo Fantin’s plexiglass sets and Carla Teti’s contemporary costumes.

Simon Rattle leads the Berlin State Opera and Chorus with complete command and pliable handling of the vocal needs of his soloists.

The two DVDs are produced in high quality video. Our only objection is that the absence of an accompanying libretto and artists’ bios cheapen an otherwise fine product.

~~~     

Parsifal Richard Wagner – Opera in three acts

Orchestra and Chorus of Palermo’s Teatro Massimo

Conductor: Omer Meir Wellber

Stage Director: Graham Vick

Set Designer: Timothy O’Brien

Costume Designer: Mauro Tinti

Video Director: Tiziano Mancini

Recorded live at Teatro Massimo Palermo in 2020

Julian Hubbard – Parsifal

Tomas Tomasson – Amfortas

John Relyea – Gurnemanz

Catherine Hunold – Kundry

Thomas Gazheli – Klingsor

Alexei Tanovitski – Titurel

In a few words: Wagner had become familiar with ancient myths and legends as early as 1826, when he undertook the translation of several chapters of Homer’s Odyssey and made drafts of two youthful literary efforts of his own, one grandly titled The Battle of Parnassus and the other, Leubold. By the time Wagner had completed and premiered the mythical Ring of the Nibelungs he turned his attention to another myth – Parsifal, working on its text and music between 1876 and 1892.

About this recording: It is myth and legend that drive the story of the “innocent fool” that heals the wounded Amfortas and eventually assumes the leadership of the Knights of the Grail. In his production of Parsifal stage director Graham Vick has set out to divest Wagner’s “Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage” of its portentousness in an effort to modernize it and make it relevant to the age in which we live.

In Vick’s production the Knights of the Holy Grail are gun-toting military men. Amfortas is a Christ look-alike, complete with a crown of thorns and bare legs and chest. Klingsor is a tattooed brute who surrounds himself with a bevy of shimmying chicks. The fortyish Julian Hubbard is anything but the callow youth the story calls for, and Catherine Hunold a matronly Kundry, rather than the seductress the plot demands. In short, the visually unattractive production design strips the staging of the otherworldly ambience that would fit the story better than what Vick and his design team have wrought.

Wagner’s strongest asset is his orchestral music, and it is so in this recording led by Omer Meir Wellber, the newly appointed music director of the Teatro Massimo. The young Israeli maestro leads his forces with a firm hand, excelling in the Good Friday music.

Catherine Hunold singing is impressive, never more so than in her movingly delivered Ich sah’ das Kind.

Julian Hubbard as Parsifal and Tomas Tomasson as Amfortas adequately meet the demands of their roles vocally and dramatically.

John Relyea as Gurnemanz impressively steps into the part of the kindly aging guide who teaches through tough love the rough around the edges Parsifal self-renunciation and compassion. Noble of bearing and vocally inexhaustible, the bass joins the company of great interpreters of this role.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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