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Wagner: Lohengrin (Wiener 1990) (Arthaus: 100957) [DVD] [NTSC] 
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Wagner set the action of his romantic opera Lohengrin in the first half of the 10th century an instruction which director Wolfgang Weber and his stage designers Rudolf and Reinhard Heinrich clearly took very seriously when they produced it at the Vienna State Opera in 1990. We do indeed experience the early, gloomy Middle Ages: muted colours, dark clouds, barren landscapes and simple shapes dominate the scene. Webers simplicity succeeds in evoking clear symbolism; his staging does not impress by means of the spectacular, but underlines the dramatic sense embodied in the music, allowing the outstanding singers full scope to express themselves in this remarkable production under Claudio Abbado. The main roles are taken by Cheryl Studer as Elsa, and Plácido Domingo as Lohengrin which he first performed as his debut role at the Hamburg State Opera in 1968, at the age of 27.
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Top Customer Reviews
Brian Large (who seems to direct every opera that appears on DVD) keeps the visual interest high, and the quality of the audio recording is very good. There is some audience noise during quiet introduction of the prelude to Act 1, but this soon becomes inaudible as the performance casts its spell. Subtitling is good. Overall, this is one of the best opera DVDs in my collection.
The "Sonnenaufgang", at the begin of the third act is the best music in the militar way that I have heard. It sounds marvelous and you feel your body to shake because of the emotion. ROBERT LLOYD as the King Henry of Germany is a great bass and has a good appeareance for that.
I recommend this DVD. The best of WAGNER and PLACIDO DOMINGO that I have heard.
All this is pretty similar to this disc. Here there is a very strong cast under a very strong baton. The orchestra play with fire too. If I were to quibble, it's the quibble that comes so frequently with Wagner - Studer is too old and, er, full, to fit the role of young innocent Elsa, and Domingo is perhaps twice as old as Lohengrin should be. The others are great - Vejzovic in particular exudes evil.
I was disappointed by the Act 1 fight. The music here is so cheesy it suits Monty Python and the Holy Grail perfectly, it was a shame they didn't let their hair down and have a bit of fun for a minute.
The picture quality is not phenomenal, I assume this was shot on video. The sound is not staggering either, there are too many reminders that this is a live recording, complete with shuffling and coughing. I also found it irritating that so much applause was recorded, together with sweeps of the enthusiastic audience. During the odd moment when nothing was happening on stage we would cut away to the orchestra to watch Abbado at work, sort of spoiling all efforts to suspend disbelief.
A lot of little complaints but the singing and playing is great, just about raising it to four stars in my books.
The only criticism I have is of the picture and sound quality. This is quite an old recording (compared to some of the sleek new crop of opera DVDs) and the age shows. The sound quality, though it gives I choice of digital stereo or digital surround, is quite thin and a bit "boxy". It bothered me at first but the staging is so impressive that I sort of saw through the less than perfect AV quality. But if a bit of distortion on top notes bothers you, then u might try to see if you can find a preview or clip somewhere to help you decide.
The orchestral playing under Abbado is the finest part of the performance closely followed by Hartmut Welker as Teralmund and Vejzovic as Ortrud, excelling in their big scene after his disgrace.
Both Domingo and Studer sing well enough as Lohengrin and Elsa but in close up (to be kind) they do not look their parts, also there is a lassitude about Domingo's performance, but maybe that is because the staging is so static there is little opportunity for them to interact.
The sound is adequate but Vejzovic is often shrill, whether this is her voice of the recording I cannot tell. Photography is just acceptable, staging weak and direction routine.
Probably best reserved for fans of the singers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thank you for letting me to have at such a competitive price.Published 9 months ago by Ms. M. Honebon
Visual quality not brilliant, but singing and acting superb as might be expected from Domingo and Studer. Read morePublished on 30 Mar. 2014 by grumps