Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Acclaimed director Werner Herzog stages Richard Wagner s — classic opera, Lohengrin in a lavish production filmed at the — famed Bayreuth Opera House, with Peter Schneider — conducting the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra. The med... more »
Three great singing-actors
Theodore Shulman | NYC | 11/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The three remarkable performances here are by Ekkehard Wlaschiha (who really brings Telramund to life, even makes you feel sorry for the stupid rock-head; also he displays flawless high-register technique and comfortable mastery of one of the most difficult roles in opera), Gabrielle Schnaut (her Ortrud is fearsome, especially when she challenges Elsa at the end of Act II, watching this is like being attacked by a moulting ostrich) and beautiful Eike-Wilm Schulte, relaxed but not soft or whiney as the Herrufer; whose personality he makes enthusiastic but dignified and modest, like a perfect broadcast reporter. Also the choruses are fantastic.
The other singers are adequate (although Paul Frey and Manfred Schenk are both way too boring), and the staging and costumes are terrific, with just the right balance of tradition and fantasy. I especially enjoy the slow-mo sword fight in Act I. And having Ortrud run into the river and turn her back to the audience for her prayer to the displaced gods in Act II is a nice touch."
Fairy Tale Lohengrin
harmless drudge | Philadelphia, PA | 05/05/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen 3 DVD productions of Lohengrin -- this one, the MET version with Hoffman/Marton, and the Vienna version with Domingo/Studer. As is often the case, none is "ideal" but I rate this version significantly above the other two. It doesn't have the strongest Lohengrin but Frey is certainly more than adequate. His youthful appearance is a definite asset and if he is a little "wooden", that fits with the otherworldliness of the character. (Domingo, by contrast, is more Melchior-like -- large voice and girth, great for a CD, not so credible for a DVD with many EXTREME CLOSEUPS.) Studer looks and sings well; her costumes (like those of others in this production) are of the generic flowing robes variety -- but they are colorful and can be viewed as both traditional and timeless. (Again, for comparison, the costumes of the Vienna production are probably more accurate for 10th century Europe but are dismal in appearance; coupled with the low lighting and the claustrophobic stage and you have an ugly production.) Ortrud (Schnaut) is a standout (certainly not a lovely voice, but a powerful one well suited for the character; also a good actress). But the overwhelming impression is that of viewing a fairy tale courtesy of the scenery, lighting, and stage movement that Herzog brings to the production. Scenes appear to leap from a children's story book or, perhaps, a medieval book of hours. There are changes of weather (snow), changes of light from night to day, rippling water, and so forth. But the production is not literal like the MET and Vienna Lohengrins. There is a smoke and laser show accompanying Lohengrin's entrance and exit (but it is in keeping with the fairy tale atmosphere). For me, this production reflects the essence of Lohengrin -- a mythological tale that is enhanced by the lighting, colors, and careful arrangement of the singers in living tableaux."
EXCELLENT WAGNER ON DVD
Jesse Knight | woburn ma usa | 12/10/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have found very few Wagner recordings in any format that compare with this Lohengrin. If we just want the sound, there is the live 1966 Tristan with Boehm, Nilsson and Windgassen. Gotterdammerung with Solti, Nilsson and Windgassen is another top pick. Leinsdorf's Walkure, remastered on CD, Is still great. Wagner without Flagstad, Nilsson or Windgassen is not the same, the singers who came after them rarely sing with the same power and security. On the other hand modern acting in opera is better, except when there is needless added action.
That said, I feel modern singers deserve a break, due to an increase of noise in the world. In 1960 powerful stereos, leaf blowers, hair dryers, microwave ovens, airconditioners, and lawn tractors were rare. Refrigerators only had one motor running part time, of course defrost was manual. I could go on. The exposure to all this noise diminishes our perception of and ability to hear soft music. Hearing tests only go up to 6000 or 8000 Hertz so much of the ear damage inflicted is not documented. I am in the early stages of trying to document our decline in hearing. To take a long view, noise has been increasing for 300 years, IMO. Singers could sing with many more vocal colors in the past than they can now, simply by being able to sing softer.
As a listener ages, hearing declines due to noise and other health factors, It is no wonder that we think so highly of the singers of our past. We heard them with young ears in a less noisy world.
BACK TO THE REVIEW
Studer as Elsa is stunning. She is secure in technique and on pitch. Her ability to register the emotions of Elsa puts her ahead of prior singers. Frey as Lohengrin is a bit stiff and light voiced, but this is only a small negative. Tenor voices are the weak link when it comes to power singing. All the remaining men are superb. Schneider conducts so well that I am tempted to put him above Furtwaengler, and certainly above Solti by a mile. The chorus is stunning, particularly the men.
Schnaut as Ortrud is where people will divide. She is mean enough, making for a great contrast with Studer's gentle Elsa. Unfortunately she goes off pitch. I gave two of these DVDs to friends and got one strong vote for Schnaut and one strong vote against. Before they cast their votes I had felt conflicted, and still do. If you like Klose as Fricka in both the Furtwaenger and Bruno Seidler- Winkler Walkures you might like Schnaut. If you like Flagstad's Rheingold Fricka, you probably will hate her.
The staging is magical and fits the mystical setting of the opera. I don't think Lohengrin can be updated sucessfully, it is fixed in the King Arthur days. The lighting is superb and tracks the mood of the music perfectly. This is a great escape back to the year 1000. The sound is excellent in LPCM mode, barring slight occasional compression. Bare in mind that this was recorded live in 1990 so the 5.1 is synthetic. Dynamic range is very wide, so only superb speakers and phones will reveal all the power and detail in the sound. Don't let the age of this recording concern you. In my opinion, Bayreuth was ahead in getting the sound right.
Robert E. Olsen | McLean, VA United States | 03/15/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Lohengrin was an early Wagner opera based on early medieval sources. Pagan gods and black magic are pitted against the New Testament God and Christian magic, and the latter win out, thanks mainly to the fighting prowess of a mysterious swan knight, but not before a witch named Ortrud goads Elsa, the knight's innocent bride, into asking him who he is. That is all it takes for the knight to renounce his bride and the Brabantians (whose protector he has agreed to be), to reveal his origins, and to take the first swan boat back to Christendom.
It is a slow-moving piece of music theater. I suspect the opera might have dragged even in 1850, when it premiered. I had hoped that the Bayreuth staging here by Werner Herzog, the film director of Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre: The Wrath of God, would provide some needed heft and action for non-German viewers. Alas, no. Perhaps Herzog was constrained by the requirements of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus or the wishes of the producer, Wagner's grandson and the keeper of the family flame, but in any event the actors in this production pose and change their positions very very slowly and the chorus rises and shines and moves about like the climax of a Bruckner symphony sounds. It is all very traditional.
The videography does not help. There are numerous long shots, held forever, of the moon over waves, some painted and some manufactured by a wave machine, rocks, and a semi-finished medieval castle. There is not a single shot of the famous theater, the supposedly live audience, the orchestra, the conductor, or even a rising curtain. On the other hand, the music, though it appears dubbed, is performed well enough. Lohengrin is sung by lyric heldentenor Paul Frey, who had a short career at the top but looks the part. Cheryl Studer sings very well as Elsa. The other principals do their jobs. Costumes and sets are unexceptional."