Lohengrin, Royal Opera, April 2009


This excellent production by Elijah Moshinsky uses a bare stage with gloriously elaborate movable designs and wonderful costumes by John Napier, subtly lit by Oliver Fenwick. It has deservedly been in the opera house repertoire since 1977 — longer than almost any other production — and the present revival was conducted with great clarity by Semyon Bychkov, amply showing the light and shade of Wagner’s music.

As to the singers, Johan Botha’s Heldentenor voice gave us a superbly sung Lohengrin, and his stage presence showed gravitas but little charisma. Edith Haller was a beautifully voiced Elsa, though she struggled in the final act towards the end of a long evening — this was an uncut version of the opera. They were both very well complemented by the wonderful singing of Petra Lang as the evil Ortrud, Gerd Grochowski (replacing Falk Struckmann) as the fatally weak Telramund, and Kwangchul Youn as King Henry. Both Petra Lang and Gerd Grochowski inhabited their roles in a particularly convincing way, not only while singing but also in their silences.

Of Wagner’s ten operas in the standard repertoire I think of this as my least favourite, but the combination of an excellent production by Elijah Moshinsky, fine conducting from Semyon Bychkov, and terrific singing from the principals and the chorus made this the best Lohengrin I remember seeing.

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