While Lohengrin is not my favourite of Wagner's operas(Tristan Und Isolde), it still contains some of his most beautiful music amongst a compelling, moving story and memorable characters. Previous to this Nikolaus Lehnhoff-directed performed from Baden Baden, I had seen the 2009 production, which was musically great with the leads superb but an example of a production that was better heard than seen, the 1990 performance with Domingo and Studer which was very good, the 1986 production likewise and my favourite the 1982 production. I found this production very effective on the whole.
I don't think however that it's perfect. I had very mixed feelings on the costumes, I loved Ortrud's, if you love seeing kitschy villain costumes that remind you of Powell and Pressburger's Tales of Hoffman or a production of Humperdinck's Hansel Und Gretel you will love Ortrud's costuming here. I wasn't however taken by Lohengrin's, not my idea of a knight but almost looking like Vogt was about to sing a concert, and the chorus' costumes were pedestrian. Kent Nagano on the whole conducts with authority bringing out the score's beauty and tension, but there are some tempos such as in the chorals that for my tastes are too slow and broad.
The sets though fare much better than the costumes, massive in size but effective in their visual simplicity. Act 2 is especially effective. The camera work and picture and sound quality are very good, and the orchestra are outstanding, with the strings playing the Act 1 prelude with just the right ethereal touch and the brass not too fatigued in Act 3. Lehnhoff's staging is simple but very dramatic(especially with Ortrud) and thematically interesting(patriotism, honour, loyalty, revenge among others). There was only one touch that didn't quite work for me and that was the Bridal Chamber scene, mainly because I didn't know what Lehnhoff was trying to do here.
Klaus Florian Vogt I found surprisingly good as Lohengrin. It is a nuanced and sensitive performance on the whole, and while a lot of people will perhaps find his timbre too light compared to other Wagnerian tenors(Vogt's tone is perhaps suited to roles like Edgardo, Nemorino and Alfredo), but the beauty in the tone itself and throughout he sings intelligently and musically. In Fernam Land is just stunning. Solveig Kringelborn I think will also have people divided. Although there is some forced chest tones and an overall vocal production that could've done with more creaminess, Kringelborn's interpretation of Elsa is generally very poignant, showing signs of brilliance such as in the Act 3 bedroom scene.
Tom Fox is a charismatic and vocally powerful, if occasionally showing signs of a wobble, Telramund. Hans-Peter Konig is excellent as Heinrich(or Henry the Fowler), with a rich voice and dignified presence, even if I slightly prefer him recently in the evil roles of Fafner and Hagen. But it was Waltraud Meier(who I consider the best Isolde and Kundry on DVD) who stole the show, while her voice is not as resplendent as it was it is still dark and expressive, and as Ortrud she is the personification of evil. For me the only singer who surpasses her in this role is Christa Ludwig on record.
Overall, a very effective if imperfect production. Meier is just phenomenal and the best asset of this. 7.5/10 Bethany Cox
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