Sunday, May 07, 2006


Press neglect of the most stunning Met debut in decades (sic!) continues, so a few more of my words on Wednesday's Lohengrin.

Besides Karita Mattila, it was a wholly different cast from opening night's. Klaus Florian Vogt aside, this second cast (Margaret Jane Wray, Greer Grimsley, Rene Pape, and Charles Taylor) brought stronger, beefier sounds than their predecessors. But not only sound changed, but apparent relationships between the characters. The villains first. Grimsley's Telramund was a stern, unyielding one, lacking the melancholia of his predecessor. His wife (Wray), on the other hand, became more human, perhaps too much so. The warm vibrato-bearing middle of her voice was welcome to hear (the wild top, on this night, less so), but combined with a more relaxed and straightforward manner of posing to make Ortrud seem oddly non-villanous; the fake fawning over Elsa appeared somehow more in character than her pagan curse.

Between Vogt and Mattila it was quite different. Mattila had not, as I feared, imploded under the outrageous strains of this production (coming after some taxing Fidelios), but she wasn't finding the singing as easy at the end of the run as the beginning. (She sounded outrageously strong this night.) Nevertheless (or therefore?) she was as dramatically present as ever.

With Vogt, their characters' dynamic snapped cleanly into focus. Of otherworldly delicacy in sound, his Lohengrin was similarly pure in manner: masculine still, and instinctively righteous when challenged, but free from the torment, envy, and uncertainty of true mortals. Alas, Elsa is all too human; despite having dreamed of divinely touched being (having an affinity for it), and desperately desiring him as the missing element of her life, she cannot really believe that he can exist, not in the same world as the endlessly base Ortrud and Telramund. It's their examples that ensnare her more than their arguments.

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Yesterday Vogt seemed to save much of his best sound for the third act, which was remarkable indeed. (That messa di voce on "taube": exquisite.) Mechanical problems -- which got Wednesday's performance off wrong too, as King Henry's mobile platform rolled awry and ran into a light prop -- didn't help the start; not only were many Met Titles screens down for Act I, but Lohengrin's swan didn't make it in from offstage for his entrance. I think most of the audience figured Wilson just wanted it swanless: what they made of Act III's avian debut I don't know. But by the latter acts it was forgotten for a memorable performance, perhaps the best yet at delineating character (Richard Paul Fink and Luana DeVol outdid themselves on that front this evening).

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Blog commentary on Wednesday's debut at Operacast, Balcony Box, and two blogs new to me (and the latter actually new to the world). Meanwhile Maury offers thoughts on Saturday's second Vogt performance (and some very funny pictures).

UPDATE (4/9): Alex at Wellsung also weighs in on the Saturday performance, while Geoff Riggs at the Operacast blog is inspired to an insightful essay.

Meanwhile the only press notice is this headscratcher from Martin Bernheimer, who seems to see only what he expects to see.


  1. Oh good I'm glad someone got a kick out of the pictures. I'm afraid, having thought of it, I will never feel quite the same about the production, but on the other hand three times through Lohengrin is probably enough for any one lifetime.

  2. I do think Geoff is right that the real source of the Elsa poses is medieval tapestry, but that doesn't make the Simpsons joke any less funny.


Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.