Review: WNO - Lohengrin @ WMC
As I write this I am still entranced by what I have seen tonight. I have waited over a year to hear this production and years more to hear this opera live. It exceeded my expectations to become a performance I shall never forget.
Any opera by Richard Wagner is a must see.
Most people are scared by the length of time and the style of the music. Do not let this put you off. Some of the greatest events I've ever witnessed were of Wagner's doing.
The composer's love of myth is well known. Set in Brabant or what is modern day Antwerp, Elsa has been accused of killing her brother Gottfried, the heir to the Brabantian throne. She declares a knight shall save her and clear her name of any wrongdoing. Just before she is sent away a knight does arrive, by boat led by a swan no less. He has come to save her. They can be wed, but there are rules he has to lay out. She can never ask his name or where he has come from. What could possibly go wrong? Dark forces bring Elsa to her limits. But will she ask the fateful questions?
The setting is taken out of the Middle Ages and set in the time Wagner wrote the opera - the 1840s. This very industrial looking set puts to mind the workshops and factories of the Victorian age. The appearance is deliberately grubby and not too appealing. This works well. The costumes are very buttoned up and Christian in their appearance. Each of the ladies dresses in the chorus is different. The scenes with the swan are almost like a ballet with some movements similar to Swan Lake.
The prelude to the opera is like a sweet sort of death. Even before the curtain had risen I was all ready chasing a flood of tears. The prelude is the part that hits me the most. I doubt there is another opening to another opera that is so tender and exceptionably beautiful. This story is extremely romantic yet seeps in a great deal of sadness as well. I'm sure others were crying.
Die-hard Wagner fans will travel far and wide to hear his work. Some people had travelled from England and even America for this. No doubt well worth the trip. A large deal of fuss seemed to have been added to this production; Prince Charles was present and two chorus members got engaged at the end of the dress rehearsal. She did say yes. Lovely stuff and here's hoping it will last longer than the marriage seen here.
For me this was a deeply moving experience. If I were to persuade you to go by all means do so. It's epic length and story are enough to attract a huge crowd. There's also one of the most famous pieces of music ever written in this opera. Here Comes The Bride, or as it is known here The Bridal Chorus is sung in the third act as Elsa and Lohengrin go to their prenuptial bed. Elsa's Dream, the arrival of the swan and In Fernem Land (The Grail Narration) are worthy highlights that dazzle with their elegance and Germanic assertiveness.
The cast were sublime. Peter Wedd as Lohengrin fitted the role perfectly. At times looking like Rhydian with a haircut, he felt just like a Knight of the Round Table. His severe appearance made for theatrical dynamite. Emma Bell as Elsa was radiant. How she kept the innocence and a sound mind as the character was exactly how it should be. The husband and wife Telramund and Ortrud played by Claudio Otelli (replacing John Lundgren) and Susan Bickley are the villains of the piece. The gruesome twosome do all in their power to make Elsa's life a living hell.
Bickley was stand alone in her portrayal. Ortrud says nothing for most of the first act. Her look and appearance was enough to scare little children away. Dressed in a massive black coat and no doubt 'Mourning for her life' her energy and evil delivery were on edge-of-your-seat viewing. She is a horrible character yet fascinating. Calling upon the pagan gods of Wodin and Fricka for revenge, instead of the Christian god. She deserves what happens to her at the end. Oh and boys will be boys when it comes to the ending. See it and you will know what I mean.
Those who are thinking of going, go. This is absolutely, positively a remarkable performance. You are bound to come out changed; I know it. And I said Lulu was the best show of the year.
Related Article: Review: WNO - Lulu @ WMC