The Mariinsky label’s first recording of an opera by Wagner features an exceptional international cast led by René Pape, Gary Lehman and Violeta Urmana. The Mariinsky Theatre has a long association with Wagner’s music. The composer himself conducted at the Theatre, which in 1863 was the location of the first performance of music from his as yet unstaged Ring Cycle. Over the past decade Valery Gergiev has become a frequent conductor of Wagner’s operas, establishing a formidable reputation in the repertoire, although remarkably this is his first recording of the composer’s operas.
Wagner described his final complete opera as a ‘A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage’ and the work has always sparked controversy, mixing moral and religious themes with music of irresistible sumptuousness. The opera was inspired by Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Arthurian poem Parzifal. Yet despite the story’s overt Christian imagery, Wagner also draws on ideas from other beliefs including Buddhism. The ‘harmonic experiments’ that he adopted for his previous opera Tristan und Isolde are further refined to create music of astonishing beauty that still retains and reflects the deep morality of the tale.