Worth seeing for the magnificent singing and music, but the production values and staging are problematic...
I am a big admirer of Wagner's music, he perhaps has a style that mayn't appeal to some people or one that grows over-time like it did with me, but I happen to find it very stirring and emotional.I had seen three Lohengrins before seeing this production, one from 1990 with Domingo and Studer, one from 1986 with Marton, Rysanek and Hoffman and my favourite one from 1982 with Hoffmann and Armstrong. Of the now four Lohengrins I've seen, this 2009 Lohengrin is my least favourite.
The problems I had with it have nothing to do with the music, sound and performances. The sound is very good, favouring both the singers and orchestra. Wagner's score is stunning, I don't consider Lohengrin his finest opera(I like Meistersinger and Tristan just a little more) but it is a very involving work and contains one of his most beautiful scores, especially Prelude to Act 1, the Bridal Chorus and In Fernam Land.
You couldn't have asked for a better orchestra, they play the start of the Act 1 prelude with a very ethereal quality that I think is necessary, and the brass don't sound too fatigued in Act 3 either. The conducting is both authoritative and nuanced, if occasionally dragging in spots, and the chorus are excellent with a wonderfully sung and joyful Bridal Chorus.
Jonas Kaufmann's Lohengrin is just superb, he is for me one of the best tenors today and his performance here as Lohengrin is the best one since Hoffmann. I loved Domingo's performance especially for the acting, but Kaufmann's voice for this role appeals to me a little more. The baritonal quality of his voice is like silk, yet the top notes have power. Also dramatically he is heroic and moving, his handsome looks are like those of a movie star and I have not heard a more sublimely sung In Fernam Land than Kaufmann's here in a while. Anja Harteros is my favourite of the four Elsas I've seen(her, Studer, Marton and Armstrong). It is a very heartfelt performance, but she brings something vocally that I don't think- as much as I liked them all- any of the others did. Instead of sounding pushed or shrill, she has the ideal spinto voice but of the four hers is by far the most beautiful-sounding.
Support cast is excellent, with the best being Wolfgang Koch, whose Telramund is effectively sinister without being too gritty or overly-melodramatic. Evgeny Nikitin as Herald has a strong presence and voice and Christoff Fischesser an impressive Henry the Fowler. Michaela Schuster's Ortrud is excitedly sung and well acted, but part of me felt the performance could've been more evil, Ludwig on record and Rysanek on stage give me the chills.
Unfortunately, the performance for all the wonderful music and magnificent singing, comes with a fair amount of negatives. This is really a production that is better heard than seen. By all means I've seen worse(Jones also directed the Met production of Hansel and Gretel, and while some of his work here was perplexing it didn't leave a bad taste in the mouth like that production did), but the other three productions especially the 1982 one were much more satisfying visually. Somehow dull sets(especially the bungalow under construction), soldiers who look as though they're part of the S.A, Elsa in workmen trousers and Lohengrin in an untidy T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms(too much like what you would see a male stagehand wearing) is not quite my idea of a visually appealing Lohengrin.
Also problematic is the staging. It is not a complete and utter disaster though, I thought the Bridal Chorus was beautifully done, but I did find touches like Lohengrin and Elsa laying bricks in the middle of the day and Lohengrin carrying a stuffed swan instead of riding one somewhat ridiculous. Overall, despite the staging and production-values, the music and the singing especially from Kaufmann and Harteros is a treat. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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