[Met Performance] CID:282880
Lohengrin {591} Metropolitan Opera House: 12/20/1985.

(Debuts: Gary Lorentzson, Timothy Murtha, Zachary Taylor
Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
December 20, 1985


LOHENGRIN {591}
Wagner-Wagner

Lohengrin...............Peter Hofmann
Elsa....................Eva Marton
Ortrud..................Leonie Rysanek
Telramund...............Leif Roar
King Heinrich...........John Macurdy
Herald..................Anthony Raffell
Gottfried...............Christian Collins
Noble...................Charles Anthony
Noble...................John Darrenkamp
Noble...................John Gilmore
Noble...................Richard Vernon
Page....................George Caputo
Page....................Matthew Dobkin
Page....................Melissa Fogarty
Page....................Gary Lorentzson [Debut]
Page....................Timothy Murtha [Debut]
Page....................Elizabeth Rogers
Page....................Zachary Taylor [Debut]
Page....................Dana Watkins

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............August Everding
Set designer............Ming Cho Lee
Costume designer........Peter J. Hall
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Lohengrin received eight performances this season.

Revival gift of the Estate of John Henry Von Hasseln


Review of Peter G. Davis in the January 6, 1986 issue of New York Magazine


The Metropolitan Opera has scheduled a generous number of Lohengrin and L'Italiana in Algeri performances over the next couple of weeks, and three singers-two for Wagner, one for Rossini-make attendance worthwhile. If that seems like a stingy dole, considering what Met tickets cost these days, remember that there have been much worse casts this season, and we must be thankful for what we get. Besides, James Levine conducts both operas, and that is another plus.

In the Lohengrin, Eva Marton as Elsa and Leonie Rysanek as Ortrud evenly divide the honors, leaving most of their male colleagues gasping for breath-literally so in a few cases. While watching the performance, I was reminded of a wonderful Wieland Wagner Bayreuth production of Lohengrin from the early 1960s. Wieland's concept of the opera at that time presented Elsa (Rysanek) and Ortrud (Astrid Varnay) as the central figures of the drama, powerful forces of good and evil relentlessly destroying each other while Lohengrin stands by helplessly. I don't think August Everding had this in mind when he originally put his more conventional notions about the opera on the Met stage a decade ago-and he has returned to supervise this revival-but the nature of the cast now at his disposal results n a very similar dramatic effect.

Rysanek's Ortrud is an especially fascinating creation, a strong woman eventually loses her power struggle with the Elsa-Lohengrin faction, not because her pagan magic fails to work, but because ambition and vanity lead her to make several fatal psychological and political miscalculations. This Ortrud is a complex, devious, dangerous, and very human dramatic presence, someone who must be watched carefully every minute-especially during Act I, in which she scarcely sings at all but absorbs and broods over everything that happens. One can see Rysanek's face and body registering and weighing each stressful event, storing up her malevolence for that magnificent eruption of evil in the [first] scene of Act II. Yes, there are moments of unsteady singing along the way, and perhaps a few phrases sound underpowered. But a great artist is at work, make no mistake, and her performance is incandescent.

Last year Marton sang Ortrud. a much blunter interpretation than Rysanek's but a thrilling piece of vocalism all the same. Now she is a creamy-voiced Elsa. A role even better suited to her temperament. Marton is unusually passionate for a Wagnerian virgin, often stubborn and willfully aggressive, but those are the qualities that make her such a worthy adversary for Rysanek's formidable Ortrud. Each soprano seems to trigger the other's best performing instincts, and I can hardly imagine two singers more ideally
teamed for this opera. The third positive element in the Met's Lohengrin is Levine,
who presides over a refined orchestral performance of unusual instrumental beauty and weighty symphonic grandeur.

The onstage male contingent, apart from the chorus, leaves much to be desired. The most disappointing is Peter Hofmann, who looks like Superwasp with his white smock, shining armor, and artificially fluffed-up blond hair. Fair enough, I suppose, Lohengrin being Lohengrin, but Hofmann's ragged tenor sounds ugly and prematurely aged, and that is decidedly inappropriate. Perhaps the time has come for this singer to stop leading a double life, put opera aside, and devote himself full-time to punk-rock music. Leif Roar's raw-voiced Telramund, John Macurdy's undernourished King Henry, and Anthony Raffell's wobbly Herald are intolerable.



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