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Richard Wagner - LOHENGRIN

Chorus and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera/Claudio Abbado
Cheryl Studer, Plácido Domingo, Robert Lloyd, Hartmut Welker, Dunja Vejzovic, Georg Tichy
Stage Director: Wolfgang Weber
Vienna State Opera 1990
4:3 [219 min]

Arthaus 100 956

Many will be relieved that this is a fairly traditional staging, set in a vaguely medieval past. Weber's presentation supports the relatively simple story line and its symbolism based on faith and magic. Although the picture is square 4:3, the sound is quite magnificent. Sonically excellent, with welcome glimpses of Abbado during the orchestral interludes, this is a rousing account of Wagner's opera, one of his least often mounted nowadays, and I have accordingly given conductor and the resident Vienna forces pride of place in my listing. The full throated chorus is always in attendance to support hero & heroine and berate the villains.

There is a due amount of processing in and out by the chorus as demanded, with the baleful Dunja Vejzovic at hand to wreck the rituals, and her lackey, the frustrated and put-upon Hartmut Welker, a certain loser. This Ortrud is always going to prevail over the starry-eyed, trustful Cheryl Studer, who is a joy to hear and watch throughout, all her expressions in close-up and no need to wish that otherwise, as can be the case with some opera DVDs. Domingo is a handsome knight, sings magnificently, and one wishes that Elsa could have accepted the reasonable terms of their union so that their love might not be doomed (the woman who wants to know too much is a recurrent theme in myth, and Bartok's Judith ought to have remembered her Lohengrin). The swan duly appears - a large, emblematic creation instead of a creaking model pulled haltingly across backstage at (probably) Covent Garden - an enduring early memory of opera in my youth.

For a later take on the myth, Sciarrino's Lohengrin for a single singer, seen in Strasbourg and which toured Europe & UK in 2001, is a haunting memory, and I have been pleased to become re-acquainted with Wagner's opera in this recommendable and unproblematic Vienna staging.


© Peter Grahame Woolf