Germany Wagner, Lohengrin: Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Chorus, Lothar Koenigs (conductor), Nationaltheater, Munich, 27.3.2016. (JMI)
Direction: Richard Jones
Sets and Costumes: Ultz
Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherin
Lohengrin: Robert Dean Smith
Elsa: Edith Haller
Ortrud: Petra Lang
Telramund: Thomas J. Mayer
King Heinrich: Günther Groissböck
King’s Herald: Martin Gantner
This Richard Jones production of Lohengrin had its premiere in July 2009, with Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros in the lead roles. The British director was loudly booed at the time, and with good reason. His personal vision has nothing to do with the libretto and score. Here is what I wrote seven years ago, and my opinion has not changed (2009 review).
The musical direction was entrusted to Lothar Koenigs, a conductor with a well-deserved reputation, whom I had not seen since a Wozzeck in this theatre four years ago. His conducting then seemed excellent, and that impression has been reconfirmed. I remember very vividly Kent Nagano in this same opera six years ago, and Koenigs was at that level. The only problem was some excess of orchestral volume at times, given that the two main protagonists do not have big voices. I would say that the musical aspect was the best part of the performance, especially because we could enjoy the great Bayerische Staatsorchester at their best.
Klaus Florian Vogt, one of the best interpreters of Lohengrin at present, had been announced for the cast but, unfortunately, he cancelled. He was replaced by Robert Dean Smith, undoubtedly one of the interpreters of reference in recent years. This American tenor has always been distinguished by his beautiful voice and elegant singing, never forced, and he continues to offer the same virtues. I find the size of his voice is diminished a little now and he was tighter at the top, particularly in the last act.
Elsa was performed by Edith Haller, who had a brilliant start to her career some ten years ago, but lately is not much seen in the major opera houses. Her Elsa was nicely done, with an ample and attractive voice in the middle range. Her top notes are problematic, and they were rather shouted in the last act.
Petra Lang is one of the great references in the character of Ortrud. Her singing may not have the elegance of Waltraud Meier, but she gave a convincing performance, brilliantly overcoming all the vocal difficulties of the role. The difference between this Ortrud and her Sieglinde last month in Dresden is remarkable. Here, she is like a fish in water.
Baritone Thomas Johannes Mayer as Telramund was correct in the role. For me, his voice is less black than what is demanded by this evil character.
Günther Groissböck was King Heinrich, and he was faultless, although I confess that I prefer a true bass in this character, while Mr. Groissböck is more a bass-baritone.
Martin Gantner was well-suited to the part of Herald.
José M. Irurzun