Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 


 
REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS


Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Lohengrin (1848)
Lohengrin – Jonas Kaufmann (tenor)
Elsa – Anja Harteros (soprano)
Telramund – Wolfgang Koch (baritone)
Ortrud – Michaela Schuster (mezzo)
King Heinrich – Christof Fischesser (bass)
Herald – Evgeny Nikitin (baritone)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayerische Staatsoper/Kent Nagano
Richard Jones (Stage Director)
rec. live, National Theatre, Munich, July 2009
Region Code: 0, Sound Formats: PCM Stereo. DTS 5.1
DECCA 0743387 [207:00]

Experience Classicsonline


 

 
This fantastic DVD captures one of the most auspicious operatic debuts of 2009, Jonas Kaufmann’s Lohengrin. We have here a record of that rarest of things: a night at the opera when everything worked. The singing is outstanding across the board, the excellent orchestral playing is guided by a conductor of vision and excitement and the production is insightful, stimulating and intelligent.
 
Let’s begin with the production which is a radical re-envisioning of the work, so traditionalists need not apply. Jones strips the work of any of its conventional trappings: there is not a hint of 10th Century Brabant, there are no knights in armour and there is a swan but no boat. When the curtain rises we see Elsa designing a house, the symbol of her dreams for the future, and the house is the key metaphor of the staging. She builds it through Act 1, it is completed during the wedding ceremony of Act 2 and, as a final deed of sorrow after she asks the forbidden question, Lohengrin torches it in Act 3. The society in which Elsa exists has all the trappings of a totalitarian state: the Herald is the voice of the law, his announcements are broadcast on TV screens making comparisons with 1984, though the costumes are not a million miles away from Germany in the 1930s. Lohengrin’s status as an outsider is reinforced by his costume (a blue t-shirt amongst starchy Brabantine uniforms) which is then adopted by everyone else. Ortrud, an outsider just like Lohengrin, wears a dyed blond, echt-Aryan wig as an attempt to fit in and she destroys everything about this world in the process.
 
I could say more, but I don’t want to deprive any reader of the pleasure of deciphering this piece of musical theatre for yourself. Suffice to say that Richard Jones’ eye for detail is apparent everywhere, from Elsa’s blithe naivety of the opening scene through to the deeply sad dénouement and Gottfried’s reappearance. Unlike so many modern reinterpretations of opera this one has a sense of direction and trajectory where nothing has been left to chance, and there is a real sense of purpose to what you are seeing. As I said before, traditionalists will not be happy, but to anyone else open to the challenge this production will repay plenty of repeated viewings with intellectual satisfaction as well as dramatic pleasure.
 
All of this would be valuable in itself, but it is merely the apparatus for some top-notch Wagner singing which would hold its own in this or any age. At the centre of it all stands the extraordinary Lohengrin of Kaufmann. He has already recorded In Fernem Land for his German recital disc and this confirms the potential of that teaser. His dark, baritonal voice has been remarked on often but it makes him marvellously well suited to suffering heroes like this. The sheer beauty of sound is so unique that after a while you take it for granted, but allied to this beauty is marvellous musicianship which invests every scene with a sense of urgency and purpose. In fernem Land is the most famous – but by no means the only – example of this, beginning pianissimo and gradually building in a great arc to the revelation of his name. His off-stage opening address to the swan is heart-stoppingly beautiful and he achieves singing of heroic levels in the declamations of Act 2. In his scenes with Elsa, however, he makes himself vulnerable and aggrieved so that his human side is brought to the fore, something underlined by Jones’ production. The colour of his voice and the strength of his acting quickly brought to mind performances by great predecessors like Ramón Vinay, but I don’t think it’s stretching things too far to mention Lauritz Melchior’s Lohengrin for comparison. His contribution sets this DVD apart as something special, but he is accompanied by an Elsa every bit as fine in Anja Harteros. Her voice has the quality of innocence necessary for the character but there is extraordinary beauty to her assumption. Einsam in truben tagen is a little slow to take off but her vision of the knight is utterly convincing and her address to the breezes in Act 2 is divine in its airy purity. She also darkens her voice for the Act 3 duet so that Elsa’s persistent mania becomes all the more tragic (and thus she is all the more culpable in it). The effortlessness of her assumption, together with its beauty, marks her out as special, already fully inside the role and making a debut every bit as auspicious as Kaufmann’s.
 
With two such extraordinary leads this set is already a winner but the supporting roles are cast from equal strength. Koch’s Telramund is a man unhinged, utterly convinced by his own rightness in Act 1 and, in the latter sections of Act 2, possessed by incredible zeal in his determination to take on the mysterious stranger. Schuster’s Ortrud, looking suitably awkward under her platinum blonde wig, is compelling without being histrionic and she summons up reserves of convincing power for Entweite Götter, smearing herself in bestial war paint as she does so. I have never heard as young a king as Christof Fischesser, but this is effective in its own way, making Heinrich seem almost out of his depth in the situation he has discovered in Brabant. Either way Fischesser sings with remarkable beauty throughout, making the king’s music come alive in a way I have seldom heard. Nikitin’s herald is entirely musical too, no blustering but valuing the role for its musical as well as structural value.
 
Nagano’s control in the pit made me a little nervous in the prelude which, to my ears, took a while to settle down, but once the action began he commanded a purposeful, neatly architectural view of this great score, with an eye to the long view and well prepared climaxes coming with the correct degree of power, especially in the transition music of Act 3. The DVD picture quality is good and, mercifully, very intelligently filmed with camera angles and takes that in no way distract and even a few well chosen shots from behind the proscenium which reveal the action in a way the house audience could not have appreciated. Sound quality is good too, though a little too focused on the central speaker.
 
All told, then, this DVD is a triumph and, for me, jumps straight to the top of the list of recommendable Lohengrins. Abbado has Domingo, though it’s only in 2.0 stereo so you might as well go to either of their CDs as the production is fairly plain. Traditionalists will be happy with the solidly 10th-Century production from the Met on DG, though I thought it just looked daft and the singing is variable, though the conducting is thrilling. The two available Bayreuth DVDs are both effective though, for me, Schneider’s performance beats Nelsson’s due to the strength of Herzog’s production and the finer singing. But it’s Kaufmann and Harteros that I’ll be returning to for the marvellous singing and intelligent stagecraft which reinforce the infinite depth of Wagner’s great dramas in which each generation can find something new.
 
Simon Thompson

See also Seen&Heard review of the stage production
 

 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.