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
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.
See also Review
by Anne Ozorio