As mad props of every sort have already been served up for the current Lohengrin elsewhere, I shall be brief.
Seeing this Lohengrin carried some special importance for me, as Lohengrin was my first real foray into Wagner. Several years ago, I had idly mentioned I was interested in going beyond the excerpts which had whetted my appetite, but was procrastinating about blowing a lot of money on a set. A kind friend filed this away, and on my birthday that spring, the Domingo/Norman/Solti Lohengrin arrived in the mail. One cold and rainy April afternoon, I sat down with the libretto, started listening, and was immediately, and irretrievably, hooked.
Yet until last week, I had never seen it live.
How could anyone could hate this production? I can understand detractors if the original cast wasn't too game for the staging. But I also have a hard time seeing how that would be such a big deal considering the overwhelming success of the concept. I mean, do you really want a castle?
Methinks Lohengrin is really the toughest Wagner to yank out of Romantic kitsch. Even Tannhauser has the porn thing going for it. (And if you need reasons why this is justified and in fact imperative see the PW's excellent short post here). The truth of the matter is that Lohengrin is a more wonderful piece of music than could ever be done justice by a designer in 2006 trying to ape the style of 100+ years ago. Wilson's staging gives us this honesty, and I for one am grateful. For, as we all know deep down, the great love duet of the third act really has nothing to do with middle ages canopy bedding and the like, and everything to do with Karita Mattila, on her knees in a sea of simple blue fabric, plaintively raising her arms to her husband. That's the whole g-d thing, folks.
Shorter rest of the production: Auguin pleased me very much, if there were times when I felt he didn't really have a feel/patience for the momentum of certain passages; Mattila takes a while to warm up--maybe this is the issue--but here she had me at hallo; Hep B sounded great--I do get the constricted thing, but man does he push through it to great effect; Devol was terrifying, as it should be--J thought better of her the second go round; Rene "Say Hey" Pape does yeoman's work comme toujours.