Wagner’s Parsifal conducted by Hartmut Haenchen with the Bavarian Festival Orchestra and Choir

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

LABELS: Deutsche Grammophon
WORKS: Parsifal (DVD)
PERFORMER: Klaus Florian Vogt, Elena Pankratova, Ryan McKinny, Georg Zeppenfeld, Karl-Heinz Lehner, Gerd Grochowski; Bavarian Festival Orchestra and Choir/Hartmut Haenchen; dir. Uwe Eric Laufenberg (Bayreuth, 2016)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 073 5350; Blu-ray: 073 5353


This production from last year’s Bayreuth Festival was involved in even more controversy than that enterprise usually generates, with a replaced director, a conductor who took over in the last weeks of rehearsal, and police on guard round the Festspielhaus in case Muslims were upset. They might easily have been, but so might adherents of other religions. Wagner’s music is of course intact here, but very little else is. I shall listen to the performance, an exceptionally fine one in the outer acts, again, but I doubt if I shall see it, with its distracting cosmic projections, expanding to the whole known universe, then contracting to Mosul in Iraq.

The distance between Eric Laufenberg’s production and Wagner’s idea may be judged by the fact that Amfortas, the chief knight of the grail, and the sinner whose wound will not heal, is transformed into Christ, with an immense crown of thorns, the five wounds, and in the communion scene blood from the wound in his side gushes into the cups held by the knights, who drink it. 

That makes total nonsense of Wagner’s words and actions, but that is now routine. Fortunately Hartmut Haenchen’s conducting is fine throughout, tempos on the quick side but not feeling it, with superb climaxes. The Gurnemanz of Georg Zeppenfeld is magnificent, despite his woolly hat and schoolmasterly spectacles. Klaus Florian Vogt has a voice which is ideal for the title role, though his acting isn’t always; and Ryan McKinny’s Amfortas is both painful and beautiful. Unfortunately Elena Pankratova’s Kundry is the least appealing I have ever seen or heard, which makes Act II rough going.  She and Gurnemanz take turns pushing one another around in a wheelchair in Act III, but by then nothing whatever would come as a surprise. 

Michael Tanner