Pfitzner’s Palestrina has had some pretty extravagant claims made for it. Bruno Walter said “The work has all the elements of immortality”. I’m not so sure. The music is very appealing but it’s structurally problematic. It’s ostensibly about Palestrina and the struggle to convince Pius IV that polyphony had a legitimate place in church music but while the first and third acts are just that they frame a second act that’s about the various squabbles at the Council of Trent, of which the question of music was but one. I think it’s meant to be a satyr on church politics of the time but it feels heavy handed, overly long and introduces a vast number of minor characters. These are not only confusing but probably make the work unstageable for all but the very richest houses. There are over 40 named solo parts but only one is a woman (and she’s dead) so major Bechdel fail here too. I think if one took a chainsaw to Act 2 a pretty decent opera might come out of it because the human story is quite affecting and the music is distinctive and rather good. Although premiered in 1917 it’s stylistically anti-modern and would likely appeal to a lot of people who are not normally drawn to 20th century opera.