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Maria Callas – “Ich sah das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust” Scene of Kundry and Parsifal sung in Italian – “Parsifal” (1882) II Act III Scene – Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) – Roma RAI 1950

by Luca

Maria Callas – “Ich sah das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust” Scene of Kundry and Parsifal sung in Italian – “Parsifal” (1882) II Act III Scene – Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883).
With Africo Baldelli in the role of Parsifal.

LIVE at the RAI Auditorium of Roma – I – 20.-21.XI.1950
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI
M.° Vittorio Gui Conductor.
Cast: Africo Baldelli, Boris Christov, Rolando Panerai.

“The triumphant youth finds himself in a wondrous garden, surrounded by beautiful and seductive Flowermaidens. They call to him and entwine themselves about him while chiding him for wounding their lovers (‘Komm, komm, holder Knabe!). They soon fight and bicker among themselves to win his devotion, to the point that he is about to flee, but then a voice calls out, ‘Parsifal!’ He now recalls this name is what his mother called him when she appeared in his dreams. The Flowermaidens back away from him and call him a fool as they leave him and Kundry alone.
Parsifal wonders if the Garden is a dream and asks how it is that Kundry knows his name. Kundry tells him she learned it from his mother (‘Ich sah das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust’), who had loved him and tried to shield him from his father’s fate, the mother he had abandoned and who had finally died of grief. She reveals many parts of Parsifal’s history to him and he is stricken with remorse, blaming himself for his mother’s death. He thinks himself very stupid to have forgotten her. Kundry says this realization is a first sign of understanding and that, with a kiss, she can help him understand his mother’s love. As they kiss Parsifal suddenly recoils in pain and cries out Amfortas’ name: he feels the wounded king’s pain burning in his own side and now understands Amfortas’ passion during the Grail Ceremony (‘Amfortas! Die Wunde! Die Wunde!’). Filled with this compassion, Parsifal rejects Kundry’s advances.”

Maria Callas sang the rôle of Kundry in Richard Wagner’s Parsifal five times in 1949 and 1950. It was in this opera that she first caught the attention of Luchino Visconti. He recalled:
The first time I saw Maria was when she was still enormous. She was half naked in the second act, covered with yards and yards of transparent chiffon—a marvellous temptress, like an odalisque… Every night she sang I secured a certain box and shouted like a mad fanatic when she took her bows. I sent her flowers. She was beautiful but fat on stage, commanding—her gestures thrilled you.
Renata Scotto laughed at the fat, graceless Callas before attending Parsifal but then, à la Kundry, was thunderstruck. “Little by little this voice had all the nature in it—the forest and the magic castle and hatred that is love. And little by little she not fat with bad skin and rich-husband-asleep-in-the-corner; she witch who burn you by standing there.”
As you can hear, Kundry was an extraordinarily congenial rôle for Callas. By some accounts, she was scheduled to sing it at La Scala in 1956 instead of Giordano’s Fedora.
As it happens, Marianne Brandt, who sang Kundry in the second performance of Parsifal in 1882, studied under Pauline Viardot. Brandt’s repertoire included Le Prophète, Lucrezia Borgia, La Favorite, Il trovatore, and other operas requiring a superb command of florid music.
Wagner is supremely ill-served by barkers, shouters, and vocalists lacking the musical polish (and elemental sensuality) of a Callas. She observed, correctly, “Wagner could never hurt your voice, if you know how to sing well.”
(Marion Lignana Rosenberg)