Germany Wagner, Lohengrin: Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Lothar Koenigs (conductor), National Theatre, Munich, 2.7.2016. (JMI)
Direction: Richard Jones
Sets and Costumes: Ultz
Lighting: Mimi Jordan Sherin
Lohengrin: Klaus Florian Vogt
Elsa: Anne Schwanewilms
Ortrud: Evelyn Herlitzius
Telramund: Evgeny Nikitin
King Heinrich: Christof Fischesser
King’s Herald: Markus Eiche
This Richard Jones production 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).
Lothar Koenigs, who recently led a successful Moses und Aron at Madrid’s Teatro Real, was excellent, although he had to overcome two problems unrelated to his conducting. To begin with, this is the first Lohengrin I’ve attended since the wonderful production last May in Dresden under Christian Thielemann. In addition, I have a very vivid memory of what Kirill Petrenko accomplished with Tosca the previous day. However, it’s evident that neither of these performances should be a point of comparison. Lothar Koenigs is a superb conductor, and he was at his best in the last two acts of the opera. Both the orchestra and the chorus were outstanding.
Klaus Florian Vogt was Lohengrin once again, and he offered a magnificent performance. His mastery of the character and the score is impressive. In other characters, such as Siegmund, his rather whitish voice is a major handicap, but not in a role like Lohengrin. He proved that he is today possibly the best performer of the Swan Knight.
Anne Schwanewilms in the role of Elsa is not exactly at the best moment of her career. There’s no doubt that her voice is attractive, and she sings with good taste, but she is a cold and distant performer on stage. She cannot cope with the most dramatic moments in Act III, which was especially clear in the high notes of the final questions that she poses to Lohengrin. This is not new: the same thing occurred two years ago in Madrid. At the time one might have thought it was an accident, but it wasn’t.
The other outstanding singer in the cast was Evelyn Herlitzius as Ortrud. In Dresden she shined in that kind dream cast, and that was true here too. It is always a pleasure to see Ms. Herlitzius in these characters.
Russian baritone Evgeny Nikitin was a somewhat disappointing Telramund. When this production was premiered he was the King’s Herald, and he was excellent, but Telramund is something else. Although he has always seemed to be a powerful baritone, he was much tighter here than in the past.
Bass Christof Fischesser was good as King Heinrich, and the same can be said of Markus Eiche as Herald.
José M. Irurzun