Lohengrin is not my favourite Wagner, but it is a great work with some of Wagner's most beautiful ever music(who doesn't love the Act 1 Prelude, Bridal Chorus and In Fernam Land). This 1991 production is very good and solid, if not my favourite like the 1982 performance with Hoffmann and Armstrong. It is visually stunning, with the traditional sets looking as though you'd stepped into a fantasy, superb lighting and nice costumes, even Elsa's which while a tad matronly in design made up for their beautiful colour. The technical values are fine too, the picture and sound quality are clear and the video directing is exemplary.
The stage directing(courtesy of legendary Werner Herzog) mostly works very well, with my favourites being the scene between Elsa and Ortrud in Act 2, the slow motion sword fight in Act 1, the use of smoke and film back projection and Ortrud's prayer to the displaced gods. There are a couple of disappointments here though, the swan felt out of place and the whole business with Ortrud is distorted and didn't make much sense to me. Musically it is just superb, the ethereal touch needed for the strings in the first act prelude is there and the brass don't sound too fatigued in Act 3. The chorus are wonderful, some of the best music of the opera is with them and the balance, pitch and musicality is spot on. Peter Schneider's conducting is both dramatic and lyrical.
Principal performances are just great. Paul Frey is rather unheroic and a little too light in voice for Lohengrin but still sings beautifully. Manfred Schenck's voice is of great sonority, if rather stolid and not quite authoritative enough dramatically, I find Lloyd from 1990 Vienna and Konig from 2006 Baden Baden more gripping. There are still plenty of the cast who stand out, especially Cheryl Studer whose Elsa is subtle and poignant. Gabriele Schnaut I have been mixed on before, but for me this is her best performance on DVD as Ortrud, the acting is fearsome and the singing is powerful if never particularly lovely.
As for Telramund, he is brought brilliantly to life by Ekkehard Wlaschiha. There were times where I did feel sympathy for him, probably for the first time watching about seven productions of Lohengrin on DVD in the past three or four years, and his high register singing is well-controlled and not too melodramatic. Eike-Wilm Schulte is also excellent, vocally somewhat relaxed and on the acting front he is appropriately enthusiastic and dignified. Overall, very solid with beautiful production values and great singing. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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