LOHENGRIN - METROPOLITAN OPERA
The Metropolitan Opera opened its spring season with a wonderful new production ofLohengrin, directed by Francois Girard. Girard's new production ofLohengrin first appeared at Moscow's Bolshoi Opera on Feb. 24, 2022--the same day that Russia first invaded the Ukraine. After a run of performances, the production was supposed to move to the Met, but after the invasion began moving the production became impossible. The Met then had to build the same sets on their own, which they did.
This production presented a very dark view of the opera with characters often wandering around a dark stage but with some light from a circular opening at the top of the stage. The moon appears often as a major symbol and a major source of light--or "the inconstant moon" as called by Shakespeare.
David Finn's atmospheric lighting guided the audience through the symbolic darkness--as in Plato'sSymposium, with man having to live in a world of shadows. Tim Yip's costumes certainly made the most of the linings of cloaks, with differing colors to match the characters and ideas of the opera, though sometimes the color symbolism seemed overly obvious or overly repetition. But this new production kept the audience fascinated with the complex characters and ideas in this opera. As it often true in Wagnerian opera, the audience is never quite sure who is the hero and who is the villain, which makes the opera eternally fascinating and subject to many interpretations. Two-dimensional characters can easily bore an audience.
Piotr Beczala's remained sensational throughout as Lohengrin, and he did not sound exhausted by his "in fernem Land" in the last act. He was always audible and beautiful sounding--he really sounded effortless throughout, though I wish he had sung more softly sometimes. Tamara Wilson's Elsa certainly matched him for beauty of tone and vocal endurance, and Wilson emphasized the naivete of Elsa, as well as her doubts and anger and guilt at the end. Both these singers had excellent German diction as well, though neither are German.
Chistine Goerke impressed as Ortrud, though I wish she had portrayed the character as not totally demonic but a bit more rounded. But Goerke sang beautifully throughout, sounding like a real mezzo in this part. And giving Ortrud her due, sometimes she is right about Lohengrin, as when she tells Elsa he will eventually leave her, which he says he would do within a year at the end of the last act.
Evgeny Nikitin's Telramund sounded a bit like Shakespeare's Macbeth, always worrying about his honor and trying to please his demanding and demonic wife, though with lovely singing throughout. These characters certainly emphasized the conflict between the then new Christianity and the older gods of Germany and Scandinavia. Wagner clearly understood Aristotle's insistence that the essence of drama is conflict, which Wagner adds in so many ways in this opera. This opera also indicates Wagner's love of Shakespeare's plays.
In the smaller roles Guenther Groissboeck's King Heinrich's basso voice beautifully presented this character's efforts to provide justice for Elsa and Brabant as well as preparation for the war with Hungary. But this King also seemed to be unsure himself about Lohengrin and his demand that no one questions him about his name and family. Why does Lohengrin create this forbidden question in the opera? Is Lohengrin a man who demands unconditional love from a woman--which one gets as a child from his or her parents (if he or she is lucky with parents) but never gets as an adult?
Brian Mulligan's deep voice added to the strength of his Herald, often backed up by Wagner's wonderful use of trumpets in this opera. They come from all directions --in the orchestra pit, on stage, and from both sides of the auditorium, and always sounding clear and arresting.
The Met's new music director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, from Montreal (as does Francois Girard), received a well-deserved ovation at the end for keeping the orchestra sounding both accurate and clear and dramatically engaged in the action on stage. The Met certainly has a wonderful newLohengrinnow which pleased most audience members. Wagnerians will want to see thisLohengrin several times, especially with this stellar cast.