The enormous cast is headed by Thomas Moser, Alan Held, Thomas Allen, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Sergei Leiferkus, Kim Begley, Peter Rose and Franz-Josef Selig.

When I came across this recording years ago I wondered why I hadn’t attended this rare local visit by Covent Garden’s Royal Opera. I definitely would have but remembered I had the chance to visit Alaska that summer which proved altogether more seductive. I recently canvassed several friends who had gone and their reactions ran the gamut: some found it a long static snooze while another was so taken with it that he went to all three performances!

Pfitzner’s masterpiece, which he labeled a Musikalische Legende, has never been embraced as a popular favorite likely due to its length, its hifalutin subject matter concerning saintly composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s defense of polyphony (!) and its virtually all-male cast. There are several female cast members but they’re either a “ghost” or young men.

It’s ironic that a work that deals with turmoil within the Roman Catholic church in Italy became so identified with Germany. Its premiere in Munich during the First World War was held up as an example of the continuing excellence of German art. Bruno Walter, who conducted that first performance. remained a lifelong advocate for its achievement.

Palestrina is the third work recently presented on Trove Thursday that takes place during the late 16th century following Gomes’s Il Guarany  and Verdi’s Alzira.

After these Pfitzner performances, Thielemann would return to the Met in 2001 for a new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, to date his last opera engagement in the US.


Pfitzner: Palestrina

Royal Opera at the Met
21 July 1997

Ruth Ziesak — Ighino
Randi Stene — Silla
Leah-Marian Jones — Young Italian cleric
Catherine Wyn-Rogers –Voice of Lucrezia
Thomas Moser — Palestrina
Alan Held — Borromeo
Harmut Welker — Bishop Severolus
Franz-Josef Selig — Pope Pius IV
Kim Begley — Cardinal Novagenio
Thomas Allen — Cardinal Morone
Anthony Rolfe Johnson — Patriarch Abdisu
Sergei Leiferkus (Count Luna
Siegfried Vogel — Cardinal Madruscht
Gwynne Howell — Archbishop Müglitz
Peter Rose — Bishop of Lorraine
Robert Tear — Bishop of Budoja
Alasdair Elliott — Bishop Theophilus
Timothy Robinson — Bishop Dandini
Robin Leggate — Bishop of Fiesole
Jeremy White — Bishop of Feltre
Stafford Dean — Bishop Avosmediano
Christopher Lackner — Spanish Bishop

Christian Thielemann – Conductor

Palestrina can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, over 350 other podcast tracks are always available from Apple Podcasts and iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.

The archive listing every “Trove Thursday” offering since September 2015 in alphabetical order by composer was updated in March.