And just in case you're wondering if I'm kidding, I'm serious. This out of the way, this is not a bad Lohengrin, it is the weakest of the Lohengrins on DVD but actually it is better than it sounds. I will be honest in saying that I would have preferred a more traditional approach, the colours are bold and quite beautiful. However, I didn't really get the laboratory setting nor having the chorus dressed as rats. The staging also had moments where it perplexed me and struck me as bizarre when it should ideally be thrilling, such as Telramund becoming a rat after failing to kill Lohengrin.
Two performances didn't quite make the grade also. Jukka Rasilainen I found very touching as Kurwenal in 2009's Tristan Und Isolde, but Telramund couldn't be more different, a heavier and more sinister role. I personally didn't find Rasilainen, despite his suitable appearance, compelling enough in his foiling with Petra Lang's Ortrud, and that his voice wasn't strong enough, overall too noble-sounding and rather short on the top. Even more problematic is Annette Dasch's Elsa. I found very little warmth in her voice, often coming across as shrill, with poor breath control and choppy legato. She looks wonderful and acts poignantly, but her vocal short-comings really outweighed what was good about her performance.
Klaus Florian Vogt however is a superb Lohengrin in a very heroic and dignified performance. I love the ethereal quality of his voice as well as his crystal-clear high notes, very ideal for In Fernam Land. In a way he has grown since his equally impressive performance from Baden Baden in 2006. Georg Zeppenfeld is a fine King Henry, with focused tone and a great authority and sense of instability(working well within the concept of the production) to his interpretation. Petra Lang is commanding and suitably malevolent with wonderful high notes, the second best Ortrud on DVD after Waltraud Meier in my opinion.
The orchestral playing is fantastic, with sensitive strings, rousing brass and soaring woodwind. The Prelude to Act 1 is just stunning in every regard, really promises a lot. Andris Nelsons, only 32 at the time, conducts with great swiftness and a firm hand. The chorus despite their costumes I also can't fault, with a beautifully blended Bridal Chorus. The camera work is a perfect balance of high and low angles and captures enough of the stage to not make the action too convoluted, while the sound is really exceptionally good.
Overall, not among the best Wagner production I've seen(1983 Tristan Und Isolde, 1980 Die Walkure, 1993 Siegfried, 1991's Der Fligende Hollander, 1992's Parsifal) but a long way from the worst(2008's Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg, 2008/9's Die Walkure, 2003's Tannhauser, 2008/9's Gotterdammerung, 2003's Siegfried). In fact of the six Wagner productions I've seen in the past week(this, Liceu's Tristan und Isolde and the whole Weimar Ring Cycle) in spite of the problems I had with it this was the best one. A respectable if somewhat underwhelming 6/10. Bethany Cox
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