I attended The Met‘s Live in HD broadcast of Richard Wagner‘s Lohengrin on March 18th, 2023.
The cast included Piotr Beczała (Lohengrin), Tamara Wilson (Elsa), Christine Goerke (Ortrud), Evgeny Nikitin (Telramund), and Günther Groissböck (King Heinrich.) The orchestra was led by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The production is by François Girard with sets by Tim Yip.
The cast was stellar in this performance, and should all be praised for their moving performances. Mr. Bezcala was a very moving Lohengrin, although a couple times he seemed to be pushing a few notes, but overall was wonderful and gave a wonderful rendition of In ferham Land in Act 3. Ms. Wilson was a innocent Elsa who was talked into asking ‘the forbidden question.’ Ms. Goerke, a wonderful Brunnhilde at the C.O.C. and The Met was a Ortrud to hate. She wanted the power and did everything she could to try and destroy Elsa. Mr. Nikitin’s Telramund was being used by his wife, Ortrud, but still thought he was doing much of the action himself.
However, the production itself was a let down. The prodiction takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, not in the ealry 10th Century during the reign of King Henry the Fowler (King Heinrich in the opera.)
I found the production was a hindrance because of this. Firstly, it is clearly not when Wagner wrote the opera, but also the staging was a distraction. The only semblance of a swan, for example, was a shiloutte of a wing briefly in Acts 1 and 3. If you are going to project the shiloutte of a wing, then they clearly could have projected a full swan!
I found the costumes for the chorus was aslo a distraction. They would randomly, at times especially so, open and close their cloaks to reveal different colours – red, green, and white. At first it was different, but by the end there were times they were opening and closing their cloaks so fast it was a distraction. The idea, what seemed to be an attempt to add some colour to a dark set, was a let down and would have been better to not use such dark, dreary, sets.
The dark sets in Act 1 also contradict what the libretto says. King Heinrich clearly sings “Im Mittag hoch steht schon die Sonne” (“It is already midday, the sun stands at its zenith”) prior to Lohengrin’s arrival in Act 1, which suggests a bright sunny day.
I also found the fight scene in Act 1 to be boring. Nothing happens, Lohengrin even refuses the sword he is offered and just stretches out his hand to defeat Telramund before taking the sword out of his hand. Then, in Act 3, Lohengrin again just lifts his hand to kill Telramund (that might work in Act 2 of Die Walküre when Wotan does that to kill Hunding, but doesn’t cut it in Lohengrin – no pun intended.)
Also, I never understood why Lohengrin remains on stage while the curtain comes down at the end of the opera makes no sense. He is supposed to be on his way back to the Holy Grail! I guess the director forgot to actually read the libretto!
Act 3 also opens with Ortrud placing out items (stones?) on the stage prior to the start of the Bridal Chorus only to remove them and disappear before anyone else showed up. She then was seen watching Lohengrin and Elsa during their duet. Neither appearance on stage made sense to me, especially the former. What was the point of the stones being placed on the stage and then immediately removed? The music for the prelude to Act 3 is moving and it doesn’t need this distraction!
All in all, the music and singing was superb, but the production could be sent out into outer space and not be missed by me in the least.
How one longs for a romantic staging of Logengrin – true to the legend and to Wagner’s vision
I definitely agree.