2005-12-03 Lohengrin (Wagner), Wiener Staatsoper

Heinrich der Vogler = Kwangchul Youn
Lohengrin = Johan Botha
Elsa von Brabant = Soile Isokoski
Friedrich von Telramund =
Falk Struckmann
Ortrud = Janina Baechle
Heerrufer = Adrian Eröd

Semyon Bychkov, conductor

Inszenierung - Barrie Kosky
Bühnenbild - Klaus Grünberg
Kostüme - Alfred Mayerhofer
Choreinstudierung - Ernst Dunshirn

I did not realize it until the day after that this was the uncut version of Lohengrin. That notion explained things up for me. I thought I had forgot parts, and the love duet did not quite play up the romanticism that I heard in Plácido Domingo and Jessye Norman in the Decca recording of Lohengrin. And the end, something was amiss in the end, I thought the reason was that it was some time ago that I listened to my recording, maybe years even. The conductor was brilliant and orchestra played wonderfully, but still... it was boring. The complete Lohengrin I am sorry to say is not such a great opera.  I wonder if that would have been my notion if I had just heard it on the radio. Webcast Radio.Orf.at. ?

I had hoped to see Agnes Baltsa as Ortrud, that was my primary and indeed only reason to go to Vienna. But she walked out for health reason and Janina Baechle sang instead. But for me it was obviously that the replacement mezzo was singing an Ortrud that was really created for Agnes Baltsa. The voice of Janina Baechle do not have a personality as Baltsa, it was a blank voice, and her acting was too extreme, she over-acted. Agnes Baltsa as Ortrud would have been really the center of the opera, eye-catching, and her voice willing to be ugly for the drama, and Ortrud needs to have an actress willing to the extremes.  The undoing of Janina Baechle was to try to not be Ortrud but to be Baltsa's Ortrud.

It was a rather colorless Lohengrin, beautiful sung but lacking in personality. Falck Struckmann as Graf von Telramund, Johan Botha as Lohengrin, Soile Isokoski as Elsa von Brabant; was good singers but still their voices was colorless. Kwangchul Youn was a good Könich Heinrich, Adrian Eröd as Heerrufer was very good.

This production made Elsa von Brabant into a Blind Woman which made nonsense of the libretto. The director maintains that he plays the score on the piano before defining the opera, so why didn't he read the libretto, too. Soile Isokoski is totally believable as a Elsa even as a blind woman. And this is not a performance making Elsa into a sorry handicapped person, no, Elsa is blind but that is not hindering her a bit. This is a great performance of Soile Isokoski, but to my ears she still does not have the vocal resources for this Wagner role. But still, BRAVA!!

Johan Botha is singing Lohengrin, Parsifal, Radames, Calaf, etc in Wiener Staatsoper, why ? His voice is not really heavy enough for Lohengrin.  He is just a fat tenor....  He doesn't sing like a Lohengrin, he doesn't look like Lohengrin.  Why not give him a suit that makes him look more like Grail Knight. Long white hair apart, thumb down. I have really no idea if this man can act, I put most of the blame at the feet of the director and team.

The production was really, really.... I don't know, irrelevant... Stupid.

Lacking in personality was this Lohengrin production. With Agnes Baltsa there would have been at least one personality....

Review: Director Booed for Wagner Staging
By GEORGE JAHN, Associated Press Writer

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Which takes us to the music and the soloists.

Wagner actually might have liked Kosky's decision to make Elsa blind. After all, a lot of the heroine's decisions are guided by inner vision — and she was spared the sight of some of the more jarring scenery on stage.

And while many would likely take issue with Kosky's decision to "get away from the German macho brouhaha" of more classical Lohengrin productions, even the most fanatical Wagner fan would probably agree that nowadays Elsa doesn't have to be blonde.

Dark-haired and facially expressive, Isokoski shone in her Vienna debut in the role, with her acting matching a clear voice that was dead-on in pitch and intensity.

Botha was her match as the knight sent from guarding the Holy Grail to rescue her from the evil couple. He is a Wagnerian tenor pure and simple, whose voice seems effortless even at the full volume often called for in this opera.

As Ortrud, Baechle seemed the weakest performer of the evening, occasionally overdoing the evil grimacing and sometimes almost inaudible in the more powerful ensemble pieces. But Struckmann was masterful as Friedrich, putty in the hands of his evil wife.

Eroed was strong vocally as the Herald, as was Youn as King Heinrich — despite lacking the physical presence normally associated with the wise and hoary German ruler.

But then, what can you do when they swap your crown and armor for a three-piece tan suit?

Reviews in German
Die Presse 5.12.05: Lohengrin in Wien. Eine musikalisch sensationelle Neueinstudierung in lächerlichem Ambiente. Und keine Regie.
Die Welt 5.12.05: Melancholisches Märchen von einst: Der Triumph des Wiener "Lohengrin"
Der Standard 4.12.05: Grenzenlos infantile Wiener Wagner-Welt
Netzzeitung.de  4.12.05: "Lohengrin" auf dem Kinderspielplatz
Zürcher Oberländer  4.12.05: Lohengrin verliert seinen Schwan

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