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Customer Review

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another one that comes and goes..., 7 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Lohengrin (Audio CD)
Now, contrary to what some readers might think, writing a bad review on a new Wagner opera set is not something that this writer particularly enjoys doing. On the contrary, I was very excited when the Janowski-RSB cycle was announced - and really looking forward to every issue through 2011, 2012 and 2013 - it felt a little bit like watching a Flash Gordon serial in the 1930s and being impressed by the nail-biting cliffhanger at the end of every episode. Alas....
After a good "Fliegende Holländer", a truly magic "Parsifal" but a completely unnecessary "Meistersinger", this Lohengrin confirms the current limitations of recording "soundtrack-only" Wagner operas. Because the voices are in short supply and because a lot of careers now seem to be built on short term celebrity (one cryingly obvious example here), directors have to be even more imaginative (in the best or worst sense of the word) to draw attention to a performance that would have have otherwise lost the audience's interest after twenty minutes.

Let's stop beating around the bush: the Act I of this Lohengrin is disastrous. The way the strings emerge from the orchestra in the first bars is truly magical but after that I didn't particularly find the orchestra extremely focused or extremely involved for that matter. Janowski, much more inspired by father than by son, goes through the motions without a lot of belief. Markus Brück is an indifferent Herald, Günther Groissböck a nice-to-hear King Heinrich but with some top notes problems. As for Annette Dasch, she is the one cast member who made me very angry. Could someone managing the interests of this lovely singer (beautiful Aminta in a performance of Il Re Pastore that enraptured me in the DVD of this opera at Salzburg in the M22 collection) tell her that she should never have been advised to sing Elsa? the instrument is tenuous - of course the notes are there but they are pushed, prepared a bit too much and forced upon an instrument that wasn't meant to sing them. The second aria finds Frau Dasch on the verge of breaking point. I am really concerned about what will happen to this lovely voice in the future - but then I guess, who cares about singers' health nowadays?

When Klaus Florian Vogt started with his "Nun sei bedannkt", I was very moved, He sounded saintly, taped in this Berlin Philharmonic Hall halo and sounding more religious than the Pope, but again the instrument is way too small for the part and this gets a bit embarrassing very early on.
No such concern for Susanne Resmark, going like a canon on every note of Ortrud, sometimes off pitch. As for Grochowski as Telramund, he shouldn't worry too much: only Schorr and Fischer-Dieskau have been able to sing Telramund properly over the last 76 years.

After Act I, Janowski must have gone to the changing room and tell his forces to start playing music properly since they were 0:3 at half-time. There is undoubtedly progress in terms of commitment and intepretative intensity in Acts II and III (which saves this recording for just being a "2-star" rating) but this Lohengrin should never have been released. I am now totally panicky about this Pentatone cycle since what is left to be released are the most difficult operas to cast: Tristan, Tannhäuser and the Ring.

Neddless to say after this ordeal, I needed a glass of whisky, which I drank listening to my Kempe recording. I know that there must be something wrong about me...but is it only me?
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Jan 2013 16:40:06 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Thomas Stewart surely deserves credit for his Telramund on the Kubelik, and I quite like Leferkus on the davis, but I admit that it's quirky. Nimsgern( both times), Welker and Schulte are all rotten! Tannhauser-oh dear, so much good (Geraher's Wolfram), so much second rate at best (everything else!). Plus ca change...!
Best Regards-oh, and spot on review, though a bit too generous! As ever, Stewart.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Feb 2013 09:25:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Feb 2013 09:25:46 GMT
Autonome says:
You are right about Welker and in a way it is a shame - as the guy is a great singer and was recorded too late or had an off-day. The problem? he couldn't speak English but he could "think" Telramund or Alberich like few others nowadays...unsung hero of modern Wagnerian singing I guess...

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Feb 2013 11:12:25 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
You are absolutely right. If you watch the DVD of the Vienna Production with Domingo, Welker is superb. I saw it 2 years later, conducted by Peter Scheider with Domingo replaced by Jersusalem and Welker was again superb, as was the unsung hero Gerg Tichy as Herald (I've seen him in just about every role from Dr Falke, Faninal and even Tonio-and he's always superb). Sadly, over use or strain meant that Welker could barely sustain a phrase in the recording. Ah well-roll on a Kaufmann CD version-PLEASE! As ever, Stewart.

Posted on 23 Feb 2013 13:30:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Feb 2013 13:30:45 GMT
I've been a bit out of the loop for the past ten or so years when it comes to buying Wagner operas on cd. I kind of lost faith in the ability of singers to be able to sing any part with conviction or anything approaching the right voice for that matter. I have heard some of the current crop of what passes now for opera singers and sad to say I'm not impressed. I know that every generation thinks that they went through a golden age and that anything current is garbage but I feel that there has been a serious decline since the late sixties and that singers now are too interested in doing crossover stuff to make money and while I have every sympathy for their desire to make a decent living they should not be encouraged to tackle roles that are clearly beyond their vocal and intellectual capacities. Rant over!

I live in hope that I shall live to hear genuine Wagnerian tenors, sopranos, mezzos, baritones and basses instead of the laughably inept bunch that are inflicted upon us at the moment.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Mar 2013 00:00:45 GMT
Autonome says:
Hear hear...I was in New York last year to see the new Ring production by Robert Lepage. The production was focusing all the attention as what was heard on stage was abominable. Kauffmann had to cancel Walkure and his last minute replacement was Sieglinde's real life husband. The mezzo singing "Fricka" in Rheingold - the only proper singer of this all Ring - would have made a better job singing the tenor part...Pathetic...

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Mar 2013 16:08:41 GMT
Was at the cinema last night watching a live broadcast of the Met's Parsifal. Have to say I was blown away. Uniformly great singing, not sure about Gatti's conducting but overall I was very impressed. Rene Pape was immense as Gurnemanz which bodes well for me as he is doing Wotan in Berlin next month for which I am fortunate enough to have tickets.

Posted on 10 Jul 2013 13:17:21 BDT
Dag Kyndel says:
It's NOTHING wrong with you, be certain!

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Aug 2013 12:30:59 BDT
Autonome says:
Thanks Dag - for the first time in my long Wagnerian life, I am skipping a new Ring (the Thielemann one) in light of the uniform bashing....
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