Wagner has always been one of my favourites, though like Strauss to an extent his work and style have grown on me over the years. Lohengrin is a wonderful opera, with some of Wagner's most beautiful music(ie. the act 1 prelude) and a riveting and sometimes moving story. Previous to this production, I saw the 1990 production with Domingo and Studer(I am watching the 1982 Bayreuth performance as we speak). I enjoyed that as well, but like this it has one or two not-so-good points.
On a visual level, this Lohengrin is more appealing than the 1990 performance. The picture quality is crisper in my opinion. Not just this, the filming is very focused, not that the 1990 performance wasn't, just that this performance is more so. What I mean by this is that it films the parts of the stage that you need to see instead of focusing somewhere else.
Doing it this way, you connect more with the character that it is focused on, and don't feel a sense of irritation you get when you're trying to figure out where the singing or what not is coming from. The costumes are generally very good, I wasn't crazy about the Rhinestone gloves and silver boots, but everything else especially Telramund was suitable. The sets were a revelation for me, with the charming bridal chamber and the dark and bleary alley way the standouts.
Musically, this Lohengrin is phenomenal. The orchestra play beautifully and powerfully throughout especially the horn section, and James Levine's conducting is superb, one of his best Wagnerian conducting jobs for me. The chorus sing the bridal chorus with great balance, good pitch, secure diction and a pleasing ethereal quality.
The performances are truly excellent. Peter Hoffman's singing is clear with good control and diction. His stage presence and facial expressions are not as wide-ranging as Domingo in my view, but in terms of getting the essence of the character Hoffmann inhabits the role of Lohengrin.
Eva Marton was a revelation. Although one would prefer a more lyrical-sounding voice for Elsa, considering that soon after Marton would go into decline, her voice does show some beauty and power. On stage, apart from her Elektra, Turandot or her role Die Frau Ohne Schatten perhaps, I don't think I have seen Marton so involved in her character. For instance, she stands motionless on stage sobbing in grief and shame, and it came across as very genuine. That moved me.
Vocally, I have heard Leonie Rysanek better than here, the voice has its power and heft but it is occasionally on the shrill side. That said, I consider Rysanek a great singer, I have seen her Crysothemis and her exceptional Elektra on film, and various recordings of hers and she is consistently good to great. As Ortud, dramatically(Rysanek always was a fine actress) she is so compelling, looking appropriately haggard and you actually feel her rage, arrogance and her ruthlessness.
Leif Roar is also dramatically wonderful as Telramund with a riveting presence, whether he was passionate or furious or other he was magnificent. He does have a tendency to snarl and be a tad too melodramatic on his high notes though, but he is so incredible to watch regardless.
In conclusion, a pretty excellent Lohengrin with wonderful settings and a great cast. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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