Christine Mielitz’s production of Wagner’s Lohengrin for the Semperoper dates from 1983, i.e., like Trabants, it was made in the DDR. To start with, it looks very old – as in those black and white photos from productions with Martha Fuchs, Max Lorenz et al. It also looks very old in the sense of “drab”, wobbly flats and mosaic-mirror swann included. Costumes are so stylistically chaotic that you could write a book about them. If the point were an ostalgie-oriented “revival”, all the bizarrerie could be seen as an endearing memento of an era, but that would require refurbishing and technical adjustment. As it is, it just seems that the theatre could not afford a new production. In any case, if I have to highlight something positive about the staging, it would be the stage direction. I do not mean it is revelatory, intelligent or even efficient, but it looks as if someone has really taken the time to rehearse everyone on stage. As a result, the level of acting among choristers and numeraries ended up particularly convincing. To make things better, the soloists were generally talented in that department as well.
Not only does Camilla Nylund have the physique du rôle for Elsa, but also she is a particularly sensitive actress. Her warm and velvety lyric soprano has an elegant and sensuous quality, but, even if she never forces, it does lacks the cutting edge of a jugendlich dramatisch voice. As a result, she would often be overshadowed by orchestra and partners, especially in her high register. In that sense, she was well contrasted to her Ortud, Judit Németh, whose powerful acuti flashed through the opera house. It is true that she ran out stamina at some point in the last scene of act II, but she offered an intelligent performance, with crystal-clear diction and subtle word-pointing. Jukka Rasilainen’s dark-toned Telramund was more reliable than exciting, but he sang the difficult part with considerable ease. Georg Zeppenfeld’s noble, rich bass filled King Henry’s phrases with good taste and sensitivity.
I had seen Klaus-Florian Vogt’s Lohengrin before on April at the Lindenoper, but this evening he offered an even more exciting performance. His legato was more functional than in Berlin, his heroic top notes more integrated in his otherwise more “unearthly” singing style. Maybe because the production left more space for his stage interpretation, his whole performance was more spontaneous and touching too, what is more commendable considering that conductor Christof Prick kept the Staatskapelle Dresden perceptibly louder throughout than Bareboim in his Berlin performances. That is almost forgivable, considering the richness and beauty of sound of the Wunderharfe, even if the orchestra was not at his top level this evening, especially the brass section, which was particularly erratic. To say the truth, the conducting was kapellmeisterlich at best and unkind to the singers when leading the orchestra to full volume in order to achieve (undeniable) excitement at the expense of the cast, especially the mezzo soprano, who had to fight mountains of decibels to pierce through in Ortrud’s fits of paganism.