Lohengrin (Sawallisch, Thomas, Silja) Box set
Wagner: Lohengrin / Thomas, Silja, Varnay, Sawallisch . Release Date: 01/14/2003 . Label: Decca . Catalog #: 470 592 . Spars Code: ADD . Composer: Richard Wagner . Performer: Jess Thomas, Anja Silja, Ramon Vinay, Franz Crass, ... Conductor: Wolfgang Sawallisch . Orchestra/Ensemble: Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Bayreuth Festival Chorus . Number of Discs: 3 . Recorded in: Stereo . Length: 3 Hours 16 Mins. Works on This Recording: 1. Lohengrin by Richard Wagner Performer: Jess Thomas (Tenor), Anja Silja (Soprano), Ramon Vinay (Baritone), Franz Crass (Bass), Tom Krause (Baritone), Astrid Varnay (Soprano) Conductor: Wolfgang Sawallisch Orchestra/Ensemble: Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, Bayreuth Festival Chorus Period: Romantic Written: 1846-1847; Germany Date of Recording: 07/1962 Venue: Live Bayreuth Festival, Bayreuth, Germany Length: 195 Minutes 34 Secs. Language: German
Top Customer Reviews
This is by no means the only "Lohengrin" worth buying; the opera has been fortunate on disc and I prefer the two superb studio recordings from Kempe and Kubelik (see my review) for repeated listening; they too have spine-chilling pairs of baddies and the Elsa of both Grümmer and Janowitz is a dream in both sets.
This is also currently available as part of the 33 disc bargain Decca live Bayreuth set.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The rest of the cast is loaded with the experience and credentials needed to make this one of the better LOHENGRIN sets, in my opinion. Actually, the presence of Astrid Varney as Ortrud was enough for me to chance this recording. Yes, the date is late in her career, but this is Varnay! And hearing Ramon Vinay return to his original baritone range is yet another reason to grab this set. Finally, I can't decide if I prefer Jess Thomas more here or in the Kempe recording; I've decided not to decide.
Sawallisch leads the whole affair with a sure hand; the sound is rich and full. This is romantic opera at its best. I wouldn't want to be without the classic Kempe set or two others from Bayreuth, conducted by Keilberth and Jochum, though neither can match this Bayreuth issue for sheer opulence.
Firstly, the musicians are great. Anja Silja was all of 22 years old when she made this recording, but she sounds incredible. She is also extremely good at conveying a wide range of emotions, which is a testament to her skills as an actress. James King is an incredible, otherworldly Lohengrin. He is even more alive here than in the Kempe recording. Astrid Varnay and Ramon Vinay however absolutely steal the show in this set. Varnay is the embodiment of evil as Ortrud, and she helps to make the second act absolutely delightful. Ramon Vinay is a not-so-submissive Telramund, and he sings very well. Franz Crass is a fine King Heinrich, and the Bayreuth Chorus is in find sound here, making the whole opera a veritable sound-feast. The orchestra is also very good, and the brass in particular shine.
Sound quality is never a problem here. The Bayreuth acoustic is captured very well and it all sounds very natural. Of course, there are some audience noises but never is it great enough to take away from the experience.
I would recommend this recording to those interested in a good live performance in a heartbeat. Although the conditions are not as secure such as in a studio version, this recording has a crackle of excitement that is necessary for a good performance of Wagner.
Vinay had a terrific intensity to his singing, which made him one of the greatest Otellos of all time as well as an amazing Tristan. And Varnay had no equal as a Wagnerian singing actress. Together they just tear up the stage as opera's bad couple. (They also make an incredible Tristan and Isolde in another Bayreuth live recording.)
Jess Thomas was in young, supple and glorious voice here, before a decade of heldentenor singing took its toll. He gives Lohengrin a freshness and appealing voice that is often missing on other recordings. And Anja Silja is likewise in early and splendid voice and makes Elsa as credible as is possible to be.
Wolfgang Sawallisch keeps the orchestra moving at a reasonable tempo without sacrificing richness of tone. And the sound isn't bad, considering this is a live recording. Although there's no libretto unless you download it, at the price it can't be beat. In fact, this is the Lohengrin that I listen to most frequently.
What one gets here is the audio equivalent of the 3D experience of sitting in the Festspielhaus watching a thrilling performance of LOHENGRIN with a cast of great singers who also happened to be great actors on the stage. That is a rarity even now. Any audience coughing or shuffling literally seems to sound like it's coming from far behind you in the theatre and never overrides the music.
Also, the cuts in the Grail Narration that Wagner made, to save the tenor's voice at the first ever performance, are observed here. Blasphemy to some, to others a relief that brings the work swiftly to its chilling close.
Nice set to own and cheaply priced. Though not the best Lohengrin out there, it's a visceral experience that really brings this otherworldly opera down to earth.