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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Lohengrin (1850)
Klaus Florian Vogt (tenor) -  Lohengrin;
Solveig Kringelborn (soprano) -  Elsa;
Hans-Peter König (bass) -  Heinrich;
Waltraud Meier (mezzo) -  Ortrud;
Tom Fox (baritone) -  Friedrich von Telramund;
Roman Trekel (baritone) -  Herald
EuropaChorAkademie, Mainz; Chorus of the Opéra National de Lyon
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Kent Nagano.
Stage Director Nikolaus Lehnhoff
TV Director Thomas Grimm  
rec. live, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, 1, 3, 5 June 2006. DDD
OPUS ARTE OA 0964 D  [279:00]

This production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff has caused some controversy. This is perhaps because of its Nazi references, but also perhaps because of some of its sillier moments: why is Lohengrin playing a piano at one point? Why is he dressed, as one reviewer correctly pointed out, like Liberace as he does so?. In addition, camera work is not always what it could be – the picture jerks rather in the Prelude to Act 1, in visual contradiction to Wagner’s seamless web of sound. Neither is Nagano a true Wagnerian. His Parsifal was wounded by this, and although Lohengrin does not work in the same huge tracts of thought, it nevertheless needs a certain amount of depth - this applies particularly to the last act. Best perhaps are Stephan Braunfels’ sets. Here for once the blurb on the DVD set, which describes them as ‘monumental’, is correct. In addition, there is an austerity that lends Lohengrin a commendable visual depth – the choral scenes in the first act make particular effect.

The Nazi references can easily, it has to be admitted, be overlaid onto Wagner’s surfaces. After all, there are plenty of patriotic references to German Lands in the text. Hans-Peter König has a large voice that lends his Heinrich much authority. He oversees the first acts events with an imperious eye. His men are situated on a large stepped backdrop like a jury.

When he enters, Lohengrin looks rather like a German Biggles. Klaus Florian Vogt, it has to be said, is not the ideal Lohengrin. His voice is rather thin and weak, leaving him in effect a rather poor second to his excellent Elsa, the angelically-clad and –voiced Solveig Kringelborn. His antics at the beginning of Act 3, referred to above, might raise some eyebrows – he sits, looking as if he is composing - correcting a score with a pencil - at a piano. Is he supposed to be Wagner himself composing here?. Vocally, Florian is quite weak in this vital act - especially when he speaks to her about rejecting the King’s crown. It is Kringelborn who is superb, though, and there is a real dramatic shock as she asks the question of his name - the backdrop collapses at this point. She looks devastated in the later stages like a forlorn Act 3 Kundry!

As Act 3 progresses to its famous conclusion it becomes clear that Florian has been saving himself. The final monologues - ‘Mein lieber Schwann’ delivered bang centre-stage - reveal a wide dynamic range and a good low register. What a pity we did not get to hear more of this later.

Waltraud Meier excels as Ortrud. She just oozes evil, something which makes her Act 2 scene with Telramund (Tom Fox) all the more believable. Although Fox has a large voice, it is Meier who has all the stage presence. The stage itself gives a sense of space here, so that their isolation is felt all the more keenly. Meier’s greatest moment, though, is at the very close of the opera where she just drips vitriol.

Roman Trekel injects more power than usual to the Herald and the chorus is excellent throughout. Well worth seeing, then, if not as powerfully conducted or, indeed, sung as it could have been.

Colin Clarke

See also Review by Anne Ozorio


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