Met Orchestra Brilliant in Lohengrin: May 2006

Met Orchestra Brilliant in Lohengrin

Lohengrin, May 3, 2006; Metropolitan Opera, cond. Philippe Auguin; Herald: Charles Taylor; King Henry; René Pape; Telramund: Greer Grimsley; Elsa: Karita Mattila; Lohengrin: Klaus Florian Vogt (debut); Ortrud: Margaret Jane Wray; production: Robert Wilson

The Met’s production of Lohengrin this season featured the stage design of Robert Wilson.  Ac-cording to a recent review in the New York Times, when Wilson’s ideas were unveiled in the 1998 Metropolitan Opera production of this work, they drew lusty boos from the audience.  Apparently, less robotic movements by the singers and improved synchronization have helped Wilson’s vision come through (there were no boos this time).

     However, one can’t help but wonder how much “vision” is too much, especially with a composer who is so meticulous about all the facets of the work and their unity.  There was no horn, sword, or ring (Lohengrin defeats Telramund in a stare down), let alone a knight in shining armor.  Yet the two-dimensional aspect that the sets and simplified movements gave to the characters created a storybook effect, as if one were looking at an illustrated page.  The starkness of the production did cause one to focus more on the playing and the singing, both of which were excellent.

     Under Auguin, the Met orchestra played brilliantly, with notes seeming to come out of thin air.  Margaret Jane Wray was well cast as a controlling Ortrud, though the role seemed to be all she could handle. Karita Matilla’s Elsa was beautifully sung and portrayed in a lost, dream-like state.  As the King, René Pape was, as al-ways, true to form, and Greer Grimsley was a strong presence as Telramund.

     This performance marked the Met debut of Klaus Florian Vogt as Lohengrin.  At first his voice seemed very light, even lyrical.  But he quickly became the Swan Knight—delicate, forceful, and never strained.  The crowd loved him.

–Robert Reed