BBC MUsic Magazine, October 2010
Michael Tanner
WAGNER: Lohengrin

Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros, Wolfgang Koch, Michaela Schuster, Christof Fischesser, Evgeny Nikitin; Bavarian State Opera & Orchestra/Kent Nagano; dir. Richard Jones (Munich, 2009)

This kind of operatic DVD makes a reviewer’s life difficult. Without question, the musical performance is very good, and in the case of the title role, sung by Jonas Kaufmann, I would say it is perfect, and easily the best account of this tricky role I have ever heard.

Kaufmann is also noble-looking, handsome and acts with natural grace and conviction. Elsa, taken by Anja Harteros, is not quite on this exalted level, but she is intense, unfailingly expressive in a role that often sounds insipid, and responds to Kaufmann movingly.

The villains are a satisfactory pair, and the chorus, which has a huge part in this work, is nothing short of magnificent. Kent Nagano is the often inspired and at all times fine conductor.   

I took it for granted that this production would be set in the present, since it is by Richard Jones.  But I had hardly bargained for his imagination running to this degree of strangeness.

During the Prelude, that glorious static vision of the Grail, we see Elsa, in dungarees, aided by workmen, laying bricks (convincingly), building her own house, her refuge. Lohengrin strolls in, wearing a T-shirt, trackies and trainers, and offers to help. I think the colour-coding suggests that we are in a totalitarian state. 

In Act III, when the wedding night goes wrong, once Elsa has left the scene Lohengrin puts the crib (for their prospective baby) on their bed, pours petrol over it all, and burns the place down. Does this have any connection with what anyone is saying or supposed to be doing?

Not the least. I suggest buying this DVD and listening to the audio track, even as your preferred recorded Lohengrin; but resist watching if you can.


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