Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Opera Wednesday

Long-time readers know my high regard for Parsifal, Wagner's final opera and my favorite opera, period. When it came time, many years ago, to purchase a CD recording of Parsifal, the choice was obvious: any recording conducted by Hans Knappertsbusch. Knappertsbusch (1888-1965) was arguably the greatest interpreter of Wagnerian opera; The New York Times referred to him as "unmatched" when it came to the composer's works, and the 1962 recording, which is what I purchased, is topped perhaps only by his 1951 version. Either one sets the definitive standard as to how to listen to Parsifal.

In this clip, we see Knappertsbusch in a rare television appearance from 1963, conducting Act I of Wagner's Die Walk├╝re, the second opera in the Ring Cycle. We're all more familiar with the "Ride of the Valkyries." the opening of Act III (if you're not sure, think back to the helicopter scene in Apocalypse Now), but I'd forgotten how striking, how dynamic and hard-driving, the overture to that opera is. Here it is, with Knappertsbusch and the Vienna Philharmonic.

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