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Wagner: Lohengrin (Bayreuth Festival 2011) (Opus Arte: OABD7103D) [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] [NTSC]
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Lohengrin is staged by the enfant terrible Hans Neuenfels, and offers a thought-provoking production of brilliant visual clarity. The performance by Klaus Florian Vogt in the title role is staggering and impressive. There is beauty and purity in his voice, but in this role in particular, one truly senses something unheimlich, other-worldly, which fits superlatively both with work and production. Conductor Andris Nelsons brings out the best in the festival chorus and orchestra. It is a Lohengrin one does not easily forget and puts Bayreuth back in the vanguard of Wagner interpretation.
"Klaus Florian Vogt has been singing the role of Lohengrin for 10 years, but he never before sang it so painfully truthful, so beautiful and pleadingly, powerfully and inspired. Vogt is the miracle of this production." (stuttgarter-zeitung.de)
"A magic moment of music theatre." (Handelsblatt)
"Bayreuth's incomparable chorus really deserves a medal for its performance here." (International Record Review)
" All six solo singers are musically excellent and dramatically persuasive, with Petra Lang's excoriating Ortrud and Georg Zeppenfeld's grave yet warm-toned King Henry particularly memorable..." (Gramophone)
"Post-Wolfgang Wagner Bayreuth has its critics but this Lohengrin - and the Stefan Herheim 2008 Parsifal that will be broadcast and recorded this summer - shows it at its very best. I strongly commend this DVD to those who want to know what is current at Bayreuth...or to those who have seen it in the Festspielhaus or on TV and want to relive it. " (Musicweb International)
Georg Zeppenfeld (König Heinrich)
Klaus Florian Vogt (Lohengrin)
Annette Dasch (Elsa )
Jukka Rasilainen (Telramund)
Petra Lang (Ortrud)
Samuel Youn (Der Heerrufer des Königs)
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus; Andris Nelsons
Stage Director: Hans Neuenfels
Catalogue Number: OABD7103D
Date of Performance: 2011
Running Time: 209 minutes
Sound: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTS
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES
Label: Opus Arte
KFV has been singing the role of Lohengrin for 10 years, but he never before sang it so painfully truthful, so beautiful and pleadingly, powerfully and inspired. Vogt is the miracle of this production. --www.stuttgarter-zeitung.de
A magic moment of music theatre. --Handelsblatt
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Musically, the opera is perhaps the most accesible of Wagner's operas and the orchestra here excels in presenting the beautiful score in all its splendour under the direction of the young conductor, Andris Nelsons. Vogt as the protagonist is outstanding, his voice and looks seem born to the role and may remind the listener of the prematurely deceased Fritz Wunderlich. Dasch is glorious as Elsa and the whole cast is in top form. You may have to accustom yourself to the foibles of Hans Neuenfels with rats being the courtiers and Elsa's lost brother literally being reborn out of the swan's huge egg, but once you have accepted this, your enjoyment and pleasure will be unadulterated. Highly recommended.Bought at Amazon.uk
The Blu-ray by Opus Art gives great joy a pleasure to watch indeed for any enthusiast of Wagner to enjoy.
I am overjoyed ful stop.
I like to watch Mezzo TV, and often they use Arte films. Furthermore, it is possible to watch extracts on YouTube. So I knew what I was buying.
As always in Bayreuth, the music and the singing are absolutely superb, and the production is "interesting". In this production we have a hero (Jonas Kaufmann) and heroine (Annette Dasch) who are beautiful physically as well as in voice. I am not really sure that I know why the citizens of Brabant are dressed as rats, but they are very colourful rats. Indeed, the whole production is extremely colourful. Samuel Youn as the Heerrufer is outstanding and I can imagine that he would have excelled as the stand-in Hollaender this year. The end of the production - with the hatching of the swan's egg - is both shocking and fascinating.
The difficulty with the idea of the opera as a social experiment however is that its reductio ad absurdum turns Brabant literally into a laboratory where its citizens run around for the most part dressed in black, white and pink mouse costumes. It all looks very silly indeed and definitely not how you expect to see Wagner traditionally produced. But then again it's clearly the intention of the director to totally break down those preconceptions and the historical baggage that comes with the opera. At the very least you can safely say that there has never been a Lohengrin like this one. The staging is colourful and well-choreographed, while the modernist, clean-line, brightly lit stage that is now a distinctive feature of Bayreuth in recent years is far from the dark theatricality that you normally associate with opera productions. Using animated sequences moreover, the production takes a Rashomon-like perspective on the nature of Truth (Wahrheit) in relation to the alleged drowning of Gottfried, the heir to the throne of Brabant, by his sister Elsa, and highlights the changing reaction of the people (the rats), to the unfolding of these events at a time when King Heinrich "The Fowler" is gathering forces to fight against Hungary, this is definitely an interesting angle to explore.
Rather than bringing out any underlying complexity in the work however, it seems to either just exaggerate the broad black-and-white characterisation in the most simplistic terms with blatant symbolism (swans on one side, rats on the other) and obvious colour-coding, or else smother it in obscure references and imagery when the fit isn't quite perfect. It hardly deals with the more problematic questions raised by the work and its historical legacy, and despite the attempt to draw out the type of humour from the work that you might find more readily in Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg, it doesn't seem to work particularly well with the musical language employed by Wagner either. It's more of a "commentary" on Lohengrin than a vision that makes a true meaningful connection with the work. Whether this failing to fully connect with the heart of the piece is a problem for the performers or not is hard to say, but although it's wonderfully played by the orchestra, Andris Nelsons at least seems to struggle to find a tone to match the uneven and bizarre antics on the stage.
The singing too - something unfortunately not always given due consideration at Bayreuth - is again not really strong enough here to make the idea work, although some singers manage better than others. Klaus Florian Vogt is simply made to play Lohengrin, singing it here - as he does in the Kent Nagano/Nikolaus Lehnhoff production already available on Blu-ray - with a beautiful lyrical purity of tone that seems wonderfully fitted to his character. Georg Zeppenfeld is also very impressive as King Henry, singing wonderfully with authority but also with an edge of character instability that works well with the concept here. Petra Lang alone gives the kind of powerful, commanding Wagnerian performance you would expect. She is absolutely stunning on those high passages - although not always as strong across the range - and she consequently cuts an appropriately fearsome figure as Ortrud. She seems to adapt better to the 'baddie' role than Jukka Rasilainen, who looks and sounds hopelessly out of place here as Telramund. Annette Dasch too clearly finds the singing and the interpretation something of a struggle - but Elsa is by no means an easy role and there are enough good points to admire in her performance here. The chorus work - notwithstanding its members having to wear rat costumes - is simply outstanding.
On Blu-ray in High Definition, the brightly lit and colourful stage looks most impressive, the cameras finding plenty of low and high angles to capture the whole scope of the stage direction without getting too carried away. The audio tracks, in PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 are exceptionally good, with the orchestra and singing well recorded and mixed. Instead of the usual bland Bayreuth Making Of feature, the extras principally consist of four five minute interviews with Katarina Wagner, Hans Neuenfels, Klaus Florian Vogt and Annette Dasch, but also include a Cast Gallery and the three animated Wahrheit sequences. The booklet contains an essay with further information and interpretation of the ideas in the production, and a full synopsis.
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