Monday, December 17, 2012

Neuenfels’ Lohengrin: No Escape from the Rat Race (A Pre-Review)

Note to self:  next time don't ask
Ortrud to be 
Maid of Honor. 

And, speaking of Lohengrin...

I've been viewing and re-viewing Neuenfels' Lohengrin from Bayreuth. It's the one I mentioned when discussing curtain calls and scene changes. It's not nearly as complex a staging as Herrheim's  Parsifal, but there is still a lot to absorb. The other  Lohengrin I've seen (for comparison) is the Konwitschny  production  from Spain. While I loved Emily Magee as Elsa, I was disappointed with Ortrud and the titular tenor.

With this Bayreuth performance, I am somewhat disappointed only by Telmarund. The other principals are pretty amazing. Other than the Wedding Procession, I didn't realize I knew any of this music. But there are some suspiciously familiar melodies here, and I am glad I am getting to know the opera better. And you know what? I like the rats. The little pink ones are particularly cute, and oddly enough this is best personenregie-d chorus I've ever seen. (Is there such a thing as Rattenregie?)  Of course, regarding the opera itself, I don't have a long, grand Lohengrin tradition with a list of must-haves, so I'm probably more open than some to this staging. (Even Jonas Kaufmannwho sang the premiere performances and is not known for his love of Regieoper, had some good news about this one.)

The Wedding Procession
There is a lot of symbolism I am still working through. Recently, though, I found an article entitled The Neuenfels Bayreuth Lohengrin: Social Science as Music Drama at the Wagner Journal website that is helping me on my "journey to understanding." So far, it's the most clear-headed, and least emotional analysis of Neuenfels' staging. Co-authors Edward A. Bortnichak and Paula M. Bortnichak believe, "On the surface, like the opera itself, Neuenfels’ production is elegantly simple." They also note: 
As for the historical elements: recall that the experience of writing Lohengrin persuaded Wagner that he would never again try to marry his principal interests in myth and symbolism with historical ‘period’ elements. Neuenfels is therefore following excellent precedent by concentrating our attention on the universal messages within the opera and simply ignoring the distracting representation of 10th-century Brabantine and Saxon courts. 
I commend this article (and this DVD) to anyone who has the remotest interest in Wagner, and/or Lohengrin, and/or Bayreuth, and/or etc. Like I said, I am liking this production so far. I'm not ready to offer a full review yet, but my first inclination is to recommend it highly. 

Promo Video from Opus Arte: 
Lohengrin's arrival.


  1. I have this recording on order and expect to watch it some time in the next few weeks

    1. Super! I look forward to your insights. Meanwhile, I found a cheap copy of a "traditional" staging. The Met with Peter Hoffman: The reviews are all over the place, so I am looking forward to it.


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