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
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.