Lohengrin

Silvio Varviso
Kunigliga Teaterns Kör and Hovkapellet
Date/Location
29 January 1966
Kungliga Operan Stockholm
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
Heinrich der VoglerBengt Rundgren
LohengrinNicolai Gedda
Elsa von BrabantAase Nordmo Løvberg
Friedrich von TelramudRolf Jupither
OrtrudBarbro Ericson
Der Heerrufer des KönigsIngvar Wixell
Vier brabantische EdleJohn-Erik Jacobsson
Gunnar Lundberg
Lars Carlsson
Bo Lundberg
Gallery
Reviews
Classical CD review

On 29 January 1966 in Stockholm, Nicolai Gedda performed the title role in Richard Wagner’s. Apparently the Swedish tenor soon became concerned that further performances of Wagnerian repertoire might do permanent harm to his voice (As I recall, Gedda mentioned a conversation with Richard Tucker in which the American tenor advised: “Kid, you can’t do everything!”). Gedda never again performed or recorded a complete Wagnerian role.

As a result this new release on the Ponto label will be of supreme interest to Nicolai Gedda’s fans. And as it turns out, I think the release will also be of great importance for those who love Wagner’s early masterpiece. Gedda has always been a supremely intelligent artist, and I have no doubt that his decision to abandon Wagnerian repertoire was based upon a lifetime of experience and careful thought. But there is no evidence from this January, 1966 Lohengrin that Wagner’s Knight of the Holy Grail was inappropriate for his voice. Quite the contrary, this is one of the finest and most beautiful renditions of the title role I’ve ever heard. Gedda was 40 at the time of this Stockholm performance. And it seems he chose just the right time to sing Lohengrin. At this stage of his career his voice had a more heroic quality than in his early, lyric years. But at the same time, the voice had none of the acidity that would become more evident as time progressed.

Although Wagner expected all of his music to be sung in a lyrical style, Lohengrin is one of the German composer’s most Italianate roles. The qualities that served Gedda so well in French and Italian repertoire produce a superb Lohengrin. His diction and legato are exemplary. He is able to call upon a wide range of vocal colors, allowing him to encompass both the heroic and tender aspects of the role. In glorious voice, Gedda paces himself brilliantly, so that there is no sense of fatigue at the opera’s conclusion – quite the contrary – in the final scene the voice rings out with impressive beauty and heroism.

The tenor also shows tremendous involvement in the role. This Knight is no cardboard figure, but rather a man truly in love with Elsa who becomes devastated by her betrayal. There is true sadness in Geddaí’s voice when Lohengrin realizes that his relationship with Elsa has come to an end. All in all, I think this Lohengrin is one of the finer achievements by this great tenor.

I wish that the rest of the cast approached Gedda’s high standards. But with the exception of Ingvar Wixell’s resonant Herald, the other principals are merely adequate. None is an outright failure, but then again none equals what has been accomplished by numerous other singers on various complete recordings of the opera. The orchestral execution also leaves something to be desired, with several brass fluffs causing particular distress. On the other hand, Silvio Varviso, an experienced Wagner conductor, paces the opera wisely, never allowing it to lose momentum.

The monophonic sound is crystal clear, with a superb balance between singers and orchestra. For a complete Lohengrin that covers all the bases I would probably opt for the early-60s EMI release, with Jess Thomas, Elisabeth Grümmer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig, and Rudolf Kempe conducting the Vienna Philharmonic (beautifully remastered as a “Great Recordings of the Century” release). And of course, recordings by such great Lohengrins as Lauritz Melchior and Franz Völker are essential listening. However, Nicolai Gedda’s sole and magnificent assumption of the role deserves a place on any Wagnerian’s shelf.

Opera

Stockholm. In the new production of Lohengrin at the ROYAL OPERA on January 29, Nicolai Gedda made his debut as a Wagner singer. He himself looked at it as an experiment, uncertain if his bel canto would bear a part like Lohengrin, with its baritone-like colour, without too extreme changes of technique. His doubts were not necessary. His command of intonation and rhythm contributed to an overwhelmingly beautiful impression right from his unaccompanied appearance in the first act. The production had in the main been worked out by Bengt Peterson, but because of his illness had to be taken over by his assistant Ann-Margret Pettersson and by Leif Soderstrom — circumstances which could have resulted in compromising patchwork, had not Carl Johan Strom’s scenery given a strong stylistic frame. There was excellent interplay between individual portrayal and symbolic suggestion, a method finely fulfilled by all participants. Characteristically, Lohengrin entered from a pale blue horizon on a swan of more than natural size. In the second act the castle silhouette, in a shape of an unsymmetrical perforated wall, gave visual background to the growing suspicion and excitement. With this production, the Royal Opera demonstrated artistic resources of a quality not always seen there. Except for Nicolai Gedda, all the singers belonged to the resident company and in general showed the same high standard. Aase Nordmo-Lovberg, as Elsa, this time received a part which she could manage not only vocally but also dramatically, Barbro Ericson again proved her unique stage intensity as Ortrud, and Rolf Jupither’s Telramund controlled the dynamic and dramatic force of the performance. The conductor was Silvio Varviso, who managed to raise the orchestra to the same high level. Alternating singers have been Ticho Parly and Kolbjorn Hoiseth (as Lohengrin), and Bent Lindholm as Elsa.

BERGLIOT KROHN BLICHT

Rating
(7/10)
User Rating
(4/5)
Media Type/Label
Ponto, OOA, Premiere, OD
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Technical Specifications
561 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 805 MByte (flac)
Remarks
Nicola Gedda’s only Wagner recording