Interesting. Thanks, PSmith.
When it comes to Levine, I have no trouble at all getting along with his approach to the Ring, despite his slowish take. He seems to use the time alloted to him wisely. I get the sense every bar, every phrase is opened up and micro-examined, without losing control of the line. Which I take to easily.
But making this work in Parsifal? On the basis of what three posters have now said it would seem the magic didn't happen for Levine in Bayreuth. Pity.
I'll say this up front: I am not that big of a fan of Levine's Ring
. I think it still suffers from a "set it slow and let it go" attitude, though less severely than does his Parsifal
. I also think that it is poorly cast, to say the least, considering some of the singers who were available. I'm clearly thinking of Reiner Goldberg and James Morris, but I'm not necessarily representing the majority view on one of the two. I view Barenboim's Bayreuth set to have near-ideal casting, all things considered, and Haitink's set isn't far behind (though I'm not over-enamored with the podium contribution). That having been said, I think Levine got his range when he got to Götterdämmerung
, the standalone of which I highly recommend (not, though, the ArkivCD version - not enough clarity of sourcing for me to take a CD-R sitting down and not enough documentation).
I think the problem with Parsifal
lies in the music. There is some margin for error, even on Wagner's part, as is well known, in the Ring
, however, is the Master's magnum opus, and there is much less margin for error there. Everything in that score is so well-balanced and perfectly considered that one must really understand the Wagnerian idiom at a deep and almost intuitive level (though that isn't as hard as some might assert) before one can go treading in Parsifal
without danger of mucking things up too badly. Boulez and Kegel proved that, if one sacrifices strict idiom to a certain degree, there can be some external acceleration without much ill effect - depending on one's position to the interpretation. Levine, though, proves that things get dicey when there is an external deceleration. The music adopts, to my ears, a sort of self-consciousness and apparent tendency to overemphasize what Wagner made clear with ideal poise and precision. In other words, it's like declaiming Cicero's Pro Caelio
or In Catilinam
and melodramatically overemphasizing Cicero's killer lines. Effect that is dramatically perfect and intelligent with discretion becomes at the very least self-conscious and verges toward self-parody at the worst. I don't think Levine goes whole hog, but I do think he runs afoul of a serious peril inherent in the musical text. Parsifal
, in my mind, should be handled with care, as when one is cutting a rare gemstone: one wrong move and you've ruined things. Once you're there, it's only a question of how convincing "Plan B" is, and I suppose that's fine, but I'd rather "Plan A" were done right at the outset. But that's me, and, as for the foregoing, YMMV of course.
The Kubelik Parsifal!!!! (my envy is green and stinking). I wish I was you...sigh.
Thank you for the compliment, and now's the time to jump on it at Arkiv. Then all you'd need is to chuck your social life, pick up grad school, and - boom! - you'd be, more or less, me. Hooray!