Comme Monsieur D'Annato, I'm having a complicated reaction to Klaus Florian Vogt's Lohengrin last night.
Theoretically, I really love what a voice quality and sensibility like this brings to the role. The ethereal, impossible sweetness in Vogt's Lohengrin is a far cry from the standard lusty knight characterization, and the medieval cautionary tale reading it implies. In heightening Lohengrin's estrangement from the world and sense that he is too perfect, we are brought deeper into the question of whether the holy, utopian love he brings can actually exist among humans and the world they live in. As has been argued, Wagner indicates his later explicit commitment to Schopenhauer's metaphysics here--that destiny for the soul and true happiness actually can't exist in the tangible world we can perceive. Lohengrin's sadness at Elsa's failure is thus our sadness for the world, and the futility of hoping that we can achieve something more perfect than ourselves. Or something like that.
And make no mistake, Vogt presents a marvelous reading in this vein. As promised, "Mein Lieber Schwan" was a thing of heartbreakingly delicate beauty. The effortless honeyed tones produced throughout soared above the ensembles. And as Maury notes, it's really a fascinating aural puzzle trying to reconcile his crystal tone with its volume.
A lot of Lohengrin's music just has trouble hitting that sweet spot without that big time lusty sound. Vogt's sweetness, while unimpeachable, had a mannered quality, an excessive concern with placing each note in its proper gold-foil wrapped box that kept the unending lines from soaring to that breaking point one needs for a Grade-A Lohengasm. All the rambling above aside, Lohengrin doesn't quite feel right without that unabashed thrust of the romantic hero. It doesn't have to sound like Verdi, to be sure, but you need to be able to recognize they've got genes in common. And besides, ambivalence about what his departure means aside, he does have to do some serious stuff while he's there, killing people and getting hot for Elsa and stuff. Vogt's Lohengrin sounds more likely to ask her if she wants to get dinner sometime: "I mean, yeah, I guess it would be like a date, but we'll just do something low-key ok? Do you like Thai?" (J had a killer impression of this going by the end of the evening.) There were moments when Vogt deliberately tried add some girth to his sound, but if not intrusive, it was very decidedly not organic, and didn't do much to change that essential lean beef sound. Suggestions over at Maury's place that Strauss might be an interesting fit strike me as very intriguing. I think I would be all over his Bacchus.
So I guess the moral is that Lohengrin is an endlessly fascinating opera, and that Vogt is possessed of a freakishly lovely voice that I would like to hear again. Preferably the next time he takes the mound he'll put a little more spit on the ball.
P.S. The Mattaliciousness just won't quit. Can she please make a recording of this so I can get it and listen to it all the time?