Wagner: Lohengrin (complete opera)

by | Mar 31, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Wagner: Lohengrin (complete opera)

Conductor: Kent Nagano
Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Stage director: Nikolaus Lenhoff
Cast = Lohengrin: Klaus Florian Vogt; Elsa von Brabant: Solveig Kringelborn; Ortrud: Waltraud Meier; Friedrich von Telramund: Tom Fox; Heinrich der Vogler: Hans-Peter König; King’s Herald: Roman Trekel
Studio: Opus Arte, 2006, 3 DVDs
Video: 16:9 anamorphic
Audio formats: PCM Stereo, DTS 5.1
Running time: 279 minutes
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian; with Documentary, Illustrated synopsis, Cast gallery
Rating: ***

This Lohengrin, recorded for television in 2006 in Baden-Baden, is presented as a “dramatic struggle of masculine and feminine, revenge and compassion.” Yet only the second half of this formula is effective, reflected mainly in the costumes (black and white), scenery, lighting, and excellent acting. To highlight the contrast between Elsa’s innocence, faith, and compassion on one hand and Ortrud’s cunning and deceit on the other, the designer has created a chiaroscuro effect against a deep blue background, which is highly effective.

The purported struggle between the masculine and feminine, however, is presented less successfully. Klaus Florian Vogt as Lohengrin, helmeted and resplendent in a blue-gray suit, appears in a column of light as an unearthly being. He produces a clear, sweet sound with a surprisingly high tessitura, but this is an innocent Lohengrin rather than a heroic one, more poet than warrior, androgynous instead of unequivocally masculine. Elsa, on the other hand, is appropriately vulnerable for the director’s conceit and utterly feminine. Solveig Kringelhorn, who made her debut as Elsa in this production, is a sensitive, innocent soul with startlingly blue eyes. In a clichéd scene in Act 3, the director puts Lohengrin to work composing at the piano while Elsa gazes at him adoringly. The pair has just wed, but Lohengrin is ignoring his bride. Anyone familiar with Wagner’s music dramas will know that this sort of inequality between the sexes was far from the composer’s true intent and is merely an artifice created by the director.

Waltraud Meier as Ortrud moves with the taut and tensile energy of a lioness about to pounce on her prey. Telramund (Tom Fox), the man who will fulfill her ambitions (and pay dearly for them), is a fallen Jedi with a shaved head. Although he has the requisite power to get through the role, his notes sound none too secure. Hans-Peter König as the king is satisfyingly resonant and expressive.

The real hero in this DVD, however, is Kent Nagano’s magnificent conducting. He is thoroughly at home with Wagner’s complex musical texture and conducts in the grand style, with an expansive feeling. The sound is fabulously rich. The documentary by Reiner Moritz is a hodgepodge of comments from the various artists and long excerpts from the DVD we have just seen. The widescreen visual presentation is of high quality and the DTS surround audio puts the viewer in the opera house.

– Dalia Geffen

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