Tuesday, August 13, 2013


On Sunday afternoon I saw Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival in a production by Hans Neuenfels. The chorus are dressed as lab rats, in costumes with rat heads & over-sized floppy hands & feet. It is both funny & a bit creepy. Mr. Neuenfels had inventive ideas for every scene. During the overture Lohengrin pushes a huge wall from the front of the stage to the back & creates an open space for the action. Elsa enters in act 1 with a bunch of arrows sticking out of her back. Lohengrin enters walking in front of a taxidermy swan carried in a bathtub-like appliance. During the duel a screen is lowered so we watch a cartoon that schematically represents the human characters as fighting rats. Men in blue hazmat suits occasionally came out to harass various characters.

Act 2 opens with the rats looting a horse-drawn carriage & squabbling comically, & then Ortrud & Telramund are revealed to be in disguise in their midst. In the 2nd scene, I liked the female rats wearing brightly colored hats & dresses. Their tails stick out behind them & are caressed lovingly by their male partners. Combined with Wagner's romantic music, the scene actually made me teary-eyed. Elsa wears a huge gown of white swan feathers & is confronted by Ortrud in a matching gown of black feathers.

In act 3, the bridal bed is surrounded by a velvet rope, & in the final scene a giant egg is revealed, inside of which is a horrific fetus, who stands up & rips off his umbilical chord. Then everybody dies. The staging does not seem to be related to the opera itself, but it all fit with the music & was somehow very enjoyable.

The cast was consistent. Tenor Klaus Florian Vogt has a distinctive, bright sound that was appropriately other-worldly, though his singing lacked variety. Bass-baritone Samuel Youn had great hair as the Harald, & both he & bass Wilhelm Schwinghammer as King Henry sounded authoritative. Mezzo Petra Lang sang Ortrud with intensity. Soprano Annette Dasch was a strong-voiced yet vulnerable Elsa. I liked that baritone Thomas J. Mayer portrayed a manly & independent Telramund.

The chorus was terrific, singing & moving together smoothly. The orchestra, led by Andris Nelsons, played beautifully, & it was stunning to hear the individual sections of the orchestra so transparently & their sound emerging from the air over the singers' heads. The overtures & choruses were especially effective in the theater's amazing acoustic. The audience enthusiastically applauded each act & gave all the performers a big ovation. They could make even more noise by stamping their feet on the auditorium's uncarpeted wooden floor. The curtain calls lasted a good 15 minutes.

§ Lohengrin
Bayreuther Festspiele 2013
Conductor, Andris Nelsons
Director, Hans Neuenfels
Stage design, Reinhard von der Thannen
Costumes, Reinhard von der Thannen
Lighting, Franck Evin
Video, Björn Verloh
Dramaturgy, Henry Arnold
Choral Conducting, Eberhard Friedrich

Heinrich der Vogler, Wilhelm Schwinghammer
Lohengrin, Klaus Florian Vogt
Elsa von Brabant, Annette Dasch
Friedrich von Telramund, Thomas J. Mayer
Ortrud, Petra Lang
Der Heerrufer des Königs, Samuel Youn
1. Edler, Stefan Heibach
2. Edler, Willem Van der Heyden
3. Edler, Rainer Zaun
4. Edler, Christian Tschelebiew

Sunday     11. August, 04:00 PM

No comments: