Lohengrin

James Levine
New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Date/Location
4 December 1976
Metropolitan Opera New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
Heinrich der VoglerBonaldo Giaiotti
LohengrinRené Kollo
Elsa von BrabantPilar Lorengar
Friedrich von TelramudDonald McIntyre
OrtrudMignon Dunn
Der Heerrufer des KönigsAllan Monk
Vier brabantische EdleRobert Goodloe
Andrea Velis
Philip Booth
Charles Anthony
Gallery
Reviews
Gannett Newspapers

“Lohengrin” is the most performed Wagnerian work in the Metropolitan Opera’s history. If last Saturday afternoon is any indication of the type of casts that can be expected for this work in the future, “Lohengrin” may even pass Puccini’s longest run.

Saturday was the first broadcast matinee performance of this season. To say that the Met puts its best German foot forward for the occasion would be an understatement. There has not been a more exciting, or well-sung performance of Wagner’s “Swan Knight” in more than a decade.

Much of the excitement emanated from the golden throat, under the golden locks of this production’s Lohengrin. Rene Kollo, who made his Met debut in this role earlier this season, sang gloriously with his lyric tenor. Although there did appear to be a few tones not placed forward enough when Kollo had to sing fortissimo, his natural voice when not pushed is as shimmering as the gold at the bottom of the Rhine.

Kollo’s [first aria] “Nun sei bedankt, mein lieber Schwan,” floated through the house as he tenderly bid adieu to the swan that pulled his boat up the river Scheldt to his Elsa.

After carefully listening to this rich lyric voice with excellent control, it would be interesting to hear Kollo turn from Wagner’s tenor roles, which are for the most part too heavy for what was heard from his voice Saturday. Instead, he would make an excellent Werther or Des Grieux in ‘Manon.” The final act, the section that is most arduous for Lohengrin, was capped by Kollo’s touching rendition of “In fernem Land” and the reprise of “Mein lieber Schwan!”

Pilar Lorengar, as the curious Elsa, sang with clarity and purity of tone. She dramatically achieved the intended anxiety, using her body as well as her voice to convey her dilemma. She and Kollo made the perfect Aryan couple, blonde hair, majestic looks and clothed in white.

Mignon Dunn as the evil Ortrud clearly has mastered this role as she has her theatrics. She could not have improved on her vileness, even if she were playing Mephisto, himself. Her piercing eyes and powerful gestures brought gasps to the audience. Her singing almost made the sparks fly. It was the best overall performance this reviewer has ever witnessed by the outstanding artist.

As her cohort in crime, Telramund, Donald McIntyre added the proper amount of violence to his coarse, expressive baritone. He looked, sounded and simply oozed the malice and villainy of his role. He is the Met’s foremost Wagnerian baritone, and proved it last Saturday.

As King Henry., Bonaldo Giaiotti added his sonorous bass sound and regal bearing to a work by a composer he rarely sings. One had all to do, while looking and listening to Giaiotti, to remember that it was “Lohengrin” not “Aida” that this familiar voice was performing. Bonaldo Giaiotti is most probably the possessor of the most sensual and sumptuous bass voice at the Met.

Allan Monk made a fitting King’s Herald as he continued to lend his formidable voice to the moment.

The first new production of this season was “Lohengrin.” The production was the genius of August Everding. Everding had his singers use every musical moment to propel the story. His staging continued to attract the viewer without upstaging the vocal line. Everding has succeeded where most directors have failed. He has taken a novel approach without destroying the original intent.

The costumes and sets of Peter J. Hall and Ming Cho Lee, respectively, are realistically sumptuous throughout the three acts. It was a welcome change to view a Wagnerian production without wondering what was happening under the blanket of darkness that usually bathed the Met’s stage during a performance of his composer’s repertory.

If this production is a forerunner of what is to be expected from new productions in the future of Wagner’s works, they may return to the repertory in greater numbers.

James Levine conducted one of his best performances in recent years. His flare for the brassy boisterousness of Wagner’s score brought the power and glory of this music to the fore. Fortunately, Levine was conscientiously avoiding a drown out of the singers when he had to combine the might of his orchestra with the sounds from their voices.

Lou Cevatillo

Rating
(7/10)
User Rating
(4/5)
Media Type/Label
OOA, TOL
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Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 495 MByte (MP3)
Remarks
Matinee broadcast
A production by August Everding (1976)