WAGNER Lohengrin / Thielemann

RICHARD WAGNER

Lohengrin
Christian Thielemann

Piotr Beczala
Anja Harteros
Tomasz Konieczny
Waltraud Meier
Georg Zeppenfeld
Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
Int. Release 05 Jul. 2019
1 Blu-ray Video
0440 073 5621 0

A WAGNERIAN MASTER

Christian Thielemann conducts Bayreuth’s acclaimed new production of Lohengrin

The exclusive audiovisual partnership between two cultural powerhouses, the Bayreuth Festival and Deutsche Grammophon, has already resulted in three landmark Wagner productions since 2016 – Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. On 5 July 2019, a spellbinding production of Lohengrin from July 2018, conducted by Bayreuth’s music director Christian Thielemann and directed by Yuval Sharon, will become the fourth instalment of this iconic Wagner edition to be released on DVD/Blu-ray and as an eVideo album.

Thielemann has a gold-standard cast at his command: making his Bayreuth debut as Lohengrin (an inspired last-minute replacement for Roberto Alagna), Polish tenor Piotr Beczala impressed Opera News: ‘He took the house by storm … with a performance of astounding assurance and incomparable beauty.’ Also appearing at Bayreuth for the first time was the peerless soprano Anja Harteros, who is much loved by German audiences but a less frequent visitor to other international opera houses. This recording of her ‘glowing, full-throated, well-judged Elsa’ (Financial Times) will allow the whole world to enjoy her dramatic and vocal skills. Mezzo-soprano Waltraud Meier, returning to Bayreuth for the first time in 18 years, gives a masterclass in technique with her portrayal of Ortrud as rebellious freedom fighter rather than one-dimensional wicked witch. Her partner in crime, Telramund, is sung forcefully by Tomasz Konieczny, while Georg Zeppenfeld is an authoritative and charismatic King Henry, combining Italianate flair with perfect German diction.

The conductor and his Festival Orchestra are captured at their very best in this recording, with playing of “luminous transparency” (Financial Times) adding to the magical fairy-tale atmosphere conjured by the blue-washed sets and costumes designed by leading German artists Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy, members of the New Leipzig School who are admired for both their individual and their collaborative work. Thielemann is on masterful form here, uncovering unexpected details in the score and at times unleashing moments of explosive power. The outstanding Bayreuth chorus is choreographed by the director into visually arresting tableaux, aided by Rauch’s transparent gauzes and the lighting of Reinhard Traub.

Rising director Yuval Sharon, the first American to direct at Bayreuth, offers a subtly feminist reading of this tenth-century tale, which explores the conflict between Norse paganism and Christianity. In a male-dominated, martial medieval kingdom Sharon highlights the bond between Elsa and Ortrud, and changes the ending to show Elsa as a survivor, walking off into the sunset carrying an orange backpack given to her by Lohengrin. As the New York Times observes: “This Lohengrin offers tradition to traditionalists and a critique to progressives. Because it has something for everyone … it might just become as admired as the Hans Neuenfels staging it replaces.”

Lohengrin returns to Bayreuth for seven performances in July and August 2019. The DVD, BluRay and eVideo album release of this production is a further contribution to the celebrations for Christian Thielemann’s 60th birthday, which also include the publication of the book Christian Thielemann Dirigieren/Conducting – a revealing insight into the conductor’s art – and a comprehensive edition of his orchestral works on DG.