I was glad to hear the fine cast of SF Opera's Lohengrin on Sunday afternoon. Tenor Brandon Jovanovich's voice was ringing, heroic, & had a baritonal heft. He sounded strapping throughout. He sang his opening thanks to the swan in a soft, near-falsetto that was appropriately otherwordly. As Elsa, soprano Camilla Nylund conveyed both grit & defenselessness. Her singing had strength & a slight tension. She & Mr. Jovanovich were a tall, attractive couple.
Soprano Petra Lang was a terrific Ortrud, singing & acting with fierce concentration. Her voice was strong & chesty, & her Ortrud was angry, disdainful & dangerous. Bass-baritone Gerd Grochowski's singing is intelligent & pleasingly crisp. He played an unsettling, even fanatical, Telramund. He recevies a very bloody death. As the Herald, baritone Brian Mulligan sounded solid & youthful. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson communicated age & authority as the King. The orchestra played assertively under conductor Nicola Luisotti, & the music flowed in grand, sweeping gestures. Climactic scenes with the chorus were big & brawny. The brasses were warm, & it was fun to hear them play from various locations in the house.
Director Daniel Slater relocates the opera to a Soviet-style military state. The chorus are dressed as 2 opposing factions, encouraging us to view the story as a politcal parable. Most of the action takes place in the lobby of a ransacked library. The opening of act 2 finds Telramund & Ortrud huddled with homeless people outside a decaying state building. The audience murmured when the curtain came up on act 3 to reveal Lohengrin & Elsa in a bridal chamber that resembled a cross between a shoebox, a cheap motel room, & the bedroom at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I attended the performance in the upstairs standing room, where OperaVision was useful to see action occuring at the set's back wall, which is not visible from the balcony.
San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Daniel Slater
King's Herald: Brian Mulligan
Heinrich Der Vogler: Kristinn Sigmundsson
Friedrich Von Telramund: Gerd Grochowski
Ortrud: Petra Lang
Elsa Von Brabant: Camilla Nylund
Lohengrin: Brandon Jovanovich
Nobles of Brabant: Nathaniel Peake, Robert Watson, Joo Won Kang, Ryan Kuster
Sun 10/28/12 1:00pm
War Memorial Opera House