I am quite nervous for two reasons: this is my first review in English for any wagnerian performance, and this is a review, despite being seen on video, of a performance from the Bayreuth Festival. A difficult task for a Wagnerian like me. My opinions are strictly personal, and I am neither a professional critic nor a musician. In addition, watching such an event on video is not the same to see it in the Festspielhaus.
After three years, Lohengrin returns to Bayreuth Festival, and also after the production of the rats by Hans Neuenfels. The director Yuval Sharon came in substitution of Alvis Hermanis, who left some ideas in progress who Sharon hand to take.
Blue is the color impregnating the whole production, due to the beautiful work by the painters Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy, who designed beautiful sets and choir costumes. But there is already a question: Why should the main characters carry fly wings? Is Lohengrin the zoo-opera in Bayreuth? The costumes seem to be in a nice classic line, sometimes reminding in the case of men to 16th or 17th centuries ... but those wings leaves them in nonsense. Electricity is also a constant since there is an electric generator in a tiny house in the middle of the scene. The scene is in a kind of blue darkness until Lohengrin appears, because he is the hero, the force which illuminates the scenery. The results seem to improve as the performance goes by. The first part of Act 2 is one of the most beautiful moments, with the blue darkness recreating a sort of deep, oniric night where Ortrud and Telramund regret their disgrace. The duet of Lohengrin and Elsa in Act 3 takes place in the electric house, in a ruined orange room, and to keep Elsa to ask him the forbidden question on his name he ties her on a electric column which breaks in an electric shock which eliminates an approaching Telramund. The best part is the Finale, when a beautiful lake appears in the landscape, the scene goes dark to illuminate Lohengrin while singing In Fernem Land. But some desconcertating happens in the ending: when the hero leaves the scene for good, Gottfried is a green man with the appearance of Berlin's Ampelmännchen (the pedestrian signal man) who joins Elsa while the chorus fall in despair and Ortrud contemplates the scene.
Christian Thielemann makes an splendid conduction, with agile tempi and dramatic tension, to remark the tragic glory of the opera. Splendid versions of the preludes and the Morgenrote in Act 3. The chorus led by Eberhard Friedrich reached their glorious usual level.
The vocal cast was one of the great expectations of the production but in my opinion they weren't always singing at the expected level.
This was the return of the glorious Waltraud Meier to Bayreuth, after a 18 years long absence to the same theatre where her fame began. She has been the greatest wagnerian female singer of the last thirty years. Singing for the last time, she did with her only great role still to be performed: Ortrud. Despite the fact she is past her vocal prime, she prepared well her comeback. Her singing was elegant, and still mantaining her beautiful middle register. High notes are still amazing but more fragile and vibrating than in the past. Her acting skills were untouched for the time: she dominates the role, transmitting its evil, with dramatic gestures, gazes and accomplished psychological treatment of the character; being the most achieved theatrical performance in the show.
Piotr Beczala sang Lohengrin with a beautiful voice, but more lyrical than heroical, something missed in Act 2, when the character demands more heroicism. However, his Act 3 was remarkable. His pianissimo notes in the duet with Elsa and In fernem Land (one of the greatest acted moments in his performance) were too pleasant to hear.
Anja Harteros sang a delightful Elsa, despite her high notes sometimes were in trouble, like in the Dream aria in Act 1. Her Act 2 was better sung by far and she reached her peak in Act 3, when she show good acting too.
Tomasz Konieczny was better in Act 2, when his Telramund was sung convincingly and well acted. The great Georg Zeppenfeld sang with great authority his King Heinrich and the Herald of Egils Silins was correctly sung, but better acted.
The performance was well received. For many wagnerians worldwide who are waiting years for a seat or haven't the opportunity to go in this moment, the Broadcasts of Bayreuth performances became a true gift. Via livestream or even Youtube, the magic of the Green Hill reaches every home in the world.
My reviews are not professional and express only my opinions. As a non english native speaker I apologise for any mistake.
Most of the photographs are from the press and belong to its authors. My use of them is only cultural.