The Met brought out its best available performers... James Levine...controls the music superbly and...brings out a texture of sound in which Wagnerian sensualists can simply wallow." Washington Post The medieval romance of... more » the Swan Knight, who comes miraculously to the rescue of the falsely accused Elsa of Brabant, became on of Richard Wagner's most beloved operas. Enacted against a background of chivalric and religious pageantry and made vivid by Wagner's powerful, richly scored music, Lohengrin comes grippingly to life in this handsome Metropolitan Opera production, featuring a notable cast under the baton of Artistic Director James Levine. Peter Davis in New York praised Leoni Rysanek's Ortrud, "an especially fascinating creation," and Eva Marton's "creamy-voiced Elsa, "while Mary Cambell of the Associated press declared Peter Hoffman "a splendid Lohengrin.« less
D. J. Edwards | Cheshire, CT United States | 07/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Amazing that no one has ever written a commentary on this performance, even in its VHS format. Superb performance all around. It is difficult to single out anyone person because they are all good to outstanding. In my bias, I do single out Rysanek, whose "Orturd" is overwhelmingly sung and conceived. Her radiant voice fills out a great acting performance. The Met orchetra is equally outstanding. I am grateful that we have Rysanek in a live from the Met performance. She recorded little. They claim her voice was difficult to record (LP or Cd). Here she is the legend she already had become. She stated in her own words that she was not always satisfied with her recordings, although the RCA album of Italian arias did get her ok. Rysanek caught live surpasses Rysanek recorded in the studio. Live she was exciting and riviting. Her Chrysothemis is also available on a live from the Met with Nilsson as Elektra and Mignon Dunne as Clytemestra. That performance had the Met audience on its feet for nearly a hour hour at the curtains' fall. That, like this Lohengrin, is absolutely a "must have". Marton is caught in beautiful voice before its lamentable decline. Roar is an effective Telramund, never coarse of voice and Hofmann is the least stunning of the cast and he sings well and makes a very believable presence. So this gives you some idea of what you are in for. I'm been trying for many months (close to a year) to find this dvd format as I had it on VHS. It deserves to be a best seller along with the Elektra. Opera on dvd doesn't come along that often with this calabre of prodction, - No Euro-trash here - singing and overall excellence. Grab them while you can. Superb theater, great singing, outstanding orchestra playing. Wagner, Srauss and Rysanek must be very happy with this unequaled success."
The Vocalists Are Not Always Perfect But The Opera Is Brough
dv_forever | Michigan, USA | 11/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"To start with, James Levine conducts masterfully, with spaciousness where needed and exciting drama in other places. He is certainly one of the best operatic conductors working today. The staging, lighting, costumes, the whole production is fully captivating. The DVD quality is very fine, good picture and sound.
Other reviewers have mentioned that the vocalists are not always at the top of their game, I concur. However having this opera on DVD with their masterful characterizations is much more persuasive than it would be to just hear this on a sound recording. Peter Hofman plays Lohengrin really well although Domingo in a competing DVD is his superior in voice. The other singers do their parts proud, Eva Marton makes a very good, not always great Elsa. The other two main characters played by Leonie Rysanek as Ortrud and Leif Roar as Telramund are both phenomenal actors and singers.
The production is large and spares no expense in it's tradional staging, all the big set pieces come off wonderfully, the direction is top-notch. If you're a Wagner newcomer, this DVD of Lohengrin or the Placido Domingo version are both wonderful choices to view this most accessible of Richard Wagner's grandiose works for the stage."
A different take on this production
J.G. | New York, New York USA | 10/13/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was very excited to come across this Met performance by one of my favorite dramatic sopranos, Eva Marton. Wonderful dramatic gifts aside, I was quite disappointed and saddened by the amount of wear and tear the voice exhibited at this point by such a gifted actress and musician. She put tears in my eyes and touched my life when I saw her in a concert video singing "Sola, perduta, abbandonata" from Manon Lescaut. It is a rarity to have as much emotional depth as she had in that recital. I also hold the opinion that she attacks the role of Elsa with so much vocal force that it sounds as though it would be more fitting for Isolde. I believe that Cheryl Studer hit the nail more squarely on the head with a more lyrical approach to the vocalism in the Abbado-Vienna production, although Studer did not have Marton's depth of character. I am completely amazed at the choice of Telramund, Leif Roar, who made up for his apparent inability to sing the exposed high notes of the role by snarling and literally screaming them out in a melodramatic manner here, as well as in the Vienna State Opera venture also out on video. Levine and the Met Orchestra exhibit exceptional, intense playing here. In my humble opinion, the orchestra's comtribution was on of this production's saving graces. Peter Hofmann's voice as Lohengrin is crystal clear, youthful and as powerful as necessary here, but I prefer Placido Domingo's (in the Vienna production) warmth and color, although his German is un-idiomatic. Also what was up with Levine's shameful casting of the Herald, whose wobble was so great that it was impossible to discern his pitch?? One should be focusing on the drama at hand and not worrying about someone's attention-grabbing lack of technique. Shouldn't we expect more from the Met, with such a supposed standard of excellence? I am glad I bought this on Ebay and didn't pay full price."
Robert Petersen | Durban, South Africa | 04/24/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit slight disappointment after watching this DVD. Let's start with the plus's: Levine's conducting, staging and chorus efforts are admirable. Hofmann's portrayl of Lohengrin, while coarse in some places, sounds great, Roar as Telramund also sings and acts well. Now the not so good moments: Marton, as much as I admire her vocal prowress, simply sounds too heavy for Elsa. Her acting is also too stifled and contrived. Rysanek as Ortrud, as intensely as her acting is, simply does not have the voice for her part. Her high notes, as secure as she places them, just do not hold much weight as compared with perhaps Waltraud Meier. Marton should have reprised Ortrud from the previous staging and another singer performed Elsa. Otherwise, the supporting roles are well filled. The other DVD version of Lohengrin with Domingo from the VSO also lacks a good Ortrud. Can we not perhaps have Meier's performances released? They must be lurking somewhere................."
The most powerful 'Lohengrin' ever
Book Reviewer | San Francisco | 11/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
This 1986 Met 'Lohengrin' proves why a beautiful sound is not everything.
I purchased the earlier 1982 Bayreauth production (which also features Hofmann and Leir Roar) and after watching both DVD's - the difference was an eye opener. In the earlier Bayreauth production, Peter Hofmann's voice is far more beautiful, his upper notes not as strained as they are 4 years later at the Met. Also, his Bayreauth costumes are far more beautiful and more fitting than the Met ones with their 'Grand ole Opry' rhinesteone gloves and silver boots (ugh!). In addition, the voices of the women (Karan Armstrong and Elizabeth Connell) in the earlier Bayreauth production are less forced, more smooth, more note perfect than the voices of the women (Eva Marton and Leonie Rysanek) in the Met performance which sound strained, almost screeching and even at times off-key.
Yet the Met production is awesome, stupendous! -- while the Bayreauth production almost makes you yawn. The Met production has power, feeling, it has grandeur - from the first moment you are swept up in it, you believe in the characters, you feel their rage, greed, weakness and grandeur. No matter how many times you watch the Met DVD, you still get the goose bumps, the tingle, the joy of experiencing 'Lohengrin' as it was meant to be felt. Hofmann's 'Lohengrin' in the Met is more regal, more pained, more magnificent in his desolation at the end by Elsa's betrayal. And in the Met production Hofmann's piety burns through more powerfully than in the Bayreauth. Marton's 'Elsa' is stunning - she hits her notes with power but it is her acting that blew me away. Indeed, her most powerful performance comes when she doesn't even sing a note but instead stands motionless on stage sobbing in grief and shame from the consequences of her betrayal of Lohengrin. It breaks your heart. In contrast, Karan Armstrong's 'Elsa' was irritating because I never connected enough to care what happened to her - as a result, frankly, my dear, I didn't give a damn when she died at the end. It was just a soprano hitting the floor. Leif Roar's 'Telramund' was the only person who wasn't different in either production - in both, he gave equal passion and fury - he was magnificent. But finally, it is Leonie Rysanek who proves the vital necessity of emotional power. Rysanek's 'Ortrud' reveals why Leonie was a legend - not just because she hit the notes but because she infused them with such power of emotion that it knocked you off your seat. You felt her rage, her arrogance, her power, her ruthlessness, etc. In comparison, Elizabeth Connell's 'Ortrud' is merely beautiful music. She sings the notes perfectly - but nothing else. You can see Connell make the face of an angry woman but if you close your eyes, you do not hear that anger - and you should because that is what operatic singing is all about.
The filming of both productions is also vastly different. The Met production is wonderful - it films precisely those parts of the stage which you need to see, which explain, which reveal the more powerful and necessary movement on stage at that moment. You are never lost, you know exactly what is going on, etc. In contrast, the film director of the Bayreauth production irritated the hell out of me by constantly doing closeups instead of showing the entire scene. Since I couldn't see what happening on stage, how on earth could I understand what the characters were reacting to? As a result, I was totally confused as to what was going on - it was maddening and robbed me of enjoyment. Finally, the design of the Bayreauth set was offsetting in many ways - for instance, when Hofmann stood at the back of the stage in front of a giant revolving disc, you almost had to hold on to your chair because the revolving disc made you dizzy to look at it. Yuck.
Still, in the end, it was the emotion of the voices that revealed to me how incredibly important emotion is. Yes, beautiful voices are pleasant - but in the end, if they are only beautiful and nothing more, they leave you empty. The Met was not empty in any sense of the word. The Met production was glorious, emotional, thrilling, etc. It proved that sound NEEDS fury in order to signify something.