Heinrich Hollreiser
San Francisco Opera House Chorus and Orchestra
19 November 1982
War Memorial Opera House San Francisco
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Heinrich der VoglerDavid Ward
LohengrinPeter Hofmann
Elsa von BrabantPilar Lorengar
Friedrich von TelramundHermann Becht
OrtrudLeonie Rysanek
Der Heerrufer des KönigsThomas Woodman
Vier brabantische EdleRobert Tate
Jeffrey Thomas
Carl Glaum
Gregory Stapp
The Christian Science Monitor

I caught up with three productions during my recent visit here: Wagner’s ”Lohengrin,” Massenet’s ”Cendrillon,” and Tchaikovsky’s ”Queen of Spades.” All three evenings afforded something special in these operatically difficult days. Mr. McEwen clearly believes that an opera cannot rest on just one singer’s shoulders, and that a great performance can only come from substantial casting in all the principal roles. ‘Lohengrin’

This was nowhere more true than in the ”Lohengrin,” for which Mr. McEwen had gathered a particularly strong cast. The greatest interest was sparked by Leonie Rysanek’s graduation, after nearly 30 years, from the role of Elsa to the role of Ortrud. Once again, Miss Rysanek has made a role uniquely her own and set a new standard for others to aspire toward. She dominated the evening with her definitive characterization. She does not portray the character, she inhabits it.

This villainess is usually the province of mezzo-sopranos. Miss Rysanek consummately demonstrates that only a dramatic soprano can do full justice to the part. She transforms the woman into a multifaceted creature of fierce pride and bottomless ambition through dazzling histrionic powers, astounding vocal shadings and subtleties, and, when needed, seemingly endless reserves of burnished visceral power.

Peter Hoffmann brought matinee-idol good looks and a low-key but expressive character projection to his excellent performance in the title role. Pilar Lorengar’s radiantly innocent Elsa was very lyric, but she seemed unusually animated opposite Miss Rysanek’s volatile Ortrud. For Miss Lorengar, the second act confrontations represented a new dramatic and vocal high point. Hermann Becht’s Telramund was impressively bold and gruff in a way we have not been accustomed to of late. David Ward seemed a rather listless King Heinrich. Thomas Woodman’s handsome lyric baritone was heard to generally fine effect as the Herald.

In the pit, Heinrich Hollreiser led a solid, no-nonsense performance that focused more on forward motion than illumination, but gave his singers room to breathe and act. Wolfgang Weber’s direction is more sensible with this caliber of performer than it was some four years ago when casting was almost totally wrong. Beni Monetresor’s fairy tale sets and costumes put the action in a wash of blurred color that captured only one part of the story.

Thor Eckert Jr. | DECEMBER 1, 1982

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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 475 MByte (MP3)
A production by Wolfgang Weber