Notes and Editorial Reviews
Directed for Stage by Gotz Friedrich
Recorded at the Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, 1982
Picture Format: NTSC · 4:3 fullscreen
Sound Formats: PCM Stereo · Dolby Digital 5.1 · DTS 5.1
Region Code: 0 (all)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Booklet Notes: English German, French
Running Time: 200 mins
R E V I E W S
According to the liner notes, Götz Friedrich’s debut with Tannhäuser at Bayreuth in 1972 created the greatest furor in the house’s history. You wouldn’t know it from viewing this Lohengrin produced seven years later, however, and filmed in 1982. True, the sets aren’t traditional—rough-hewn rock and metal slabs—nor is
Lohengrin’s swan, replaced by a gleaming white, revolving disc. Nor should we overlook Elsa’s and Lohengrin’s bed, a pair of feathered wings spattered with blood towards one side: as overstated a piece of symbolism as I can recall on stage, if more tasteful than some. But the stage backdrops and abstract props are thoroughly integrated into the action, while the costuming is varied, colorful in a muted way, and excellent.
What’s more to the point, the cast acts and moves with a fervor and freedom that points back to Friedrich’s days as a production assistant to Walter Felsenstein. There is less of the opera stage and more realism in these performers than in any other Lohengrin production I’ve seen. Roar gives us the many sides of his Macbeth-like character, precipitate in his emotional swings between ambition and anger, self-loathing and violent action. Connell is, by way of contrast, controlled and vicious, at least until the end, when that control slips and the mask falls, while Armstrong’s very human and vulnerable Elsa is the most natural portrayal of all.
The singing is uniformly very fine, and in Hofmann’s softer passages, touches at times an excellence I haven’t heard from a Wagnerian tenor in many years. Vogel is sturdy and confident, while Roar slips a little too readily from pitch to pitch without rounding off his phrases. Both Armstrong and Connell are good, though the first lacks plush to the tone. Weikl’s Herald recalls a time when the singer still possessed a splendidly rock solid sound and forward delivery, minus the bleat of more recent years.
Lohengrin was filmed by Brian Large over several days at Bayreuth, without an audience, and with the finest equipment available. The camerawork that resulted from those sessions is excellent, finding natural angles and a reasonable pace to move among them. Close-ups are discreetly employed at appropriate moments, such as during Elsa’s Dream; and I can even accept keeping the focus on Elsa during Lohengrin’s arrival, seeing as Friedrich places her trials at the center of its conflict. In this interpretation, it is her success at belief that begins the opera; and it is the failure of that belief that ends it.
The picture format is 4:3, while sound formats include PCM Stereo, DTS 5.1, and DD 5.1. Subtitles are offered in English, German, French, and Spanish. I could wish that some features had been added to fill out this DVD set, but there’s no denying the power of this performance, and the intensity of its acting.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Lohengrin by Richard Wagner
Bernd Weikl (Baritone),
Karan Armstrong (Soprano),
Peter Hofmann (Tenor),
Elizabeth Connell (Soprano)
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,
Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Written: 1846-1847; Germany
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