Monday, October 29, 2012


What I expected:
  • Kristin Sigmundsson to sound awful, based on June's Magic Flute
  • Brian Mulligan to be a very good King's Herald
  • Gerd Grochowski to know how the music should go but lack enough voice to do what he wanted to do with it
  • Petra Lang to be a pretty good Ortrud, based on her Venus in 2007
  • Camilla Nylund to be a good Elsa, based on reports from a friend
  • Brandon Jovanovich to shout a lot, based on last year's Siegmund
  • Nicola Luisotti to be dubious. I hated his Salome.
What I got:
  • Sigmundsson was a completely respectable, at times much better than that, King Henry. Sure, he is audibly approaching retirement, but I have heard much, much worse, from him and other contemporaries.
  • Yep,  Mulligan was a very good King's Herald. Okay, better than that: I'll take him up to excellent.
  • Grochowski was exactly what I expected. He's a good singer, but Wagner? Not enough voice. His bio in the program says he is slated for some Wotans. No way, no how, unless they're in a 900 seat theater someplace.
  • Lang absolutely sucked. Hooty, pushed, glottal attacks in about every other phrase, and just plain unpleasant to listen to most of the time. One of the worst performances in a major role that I have heard. Too bad!
  • Nylund was good, not great; not as good as I thought she'd be, but definitely respectable. She had the requisite fragility and vulnerability, not much of the silvery float you hope for in Elsa.
  • BJo hit the role out of the park, just a terrific performance. Okay, I'll cop to some crooning, or anyway a whole lot of head mixed into his usual tone, in that first entrance. But vocally it was extremely beautiful, with not a bit of shouting. He maintained a fine line throughout, high notes were easy, the middle and lower part beautiful. Impeccable, really, good enough that I'd consider a return trip.
  • Except for a weirdly draggy first-act Prelude and a lack of urgency a couple of times further on (Elsa & Lohengrin's Act III duet, for instance), Luisotti was fine. I can't complain.
And the production? Sometimes quite good - the lightbox with flowers and garlands for their bedroom worked very well - sometimes failing a bit (why on earth was the crowd not looking at Lohengrin during his approach??) - mostly reasonably consistent and dramatic enough. The planned contrast between the uniformed forces and the partisans? resistance? didn't come off, but the production did not get in the way.

The orchestra played well; the brass was spectacular; the chorus absolutely heroic and gorgeous.

(Right. Lohengrin, San Francisco Opera, October 28, 2012.)


Joshua Kosman said...

The crowd wasn't looking at Lohengrin for the same reason they were all in darkness, with the only light on Elsa: His arrival is all in her head. In her moment of greatest stress and peril, she conjures up the image of her redeemer out of the mythic, misty past — not the world of drab mid-20th century strife but a golden era of heroism and chivalry. Who the hell else is going to save her?

At least, that's my reading of what seems to be going on in this production. I don't quite understand what happens to this premise as the evening progresses — maybe he becomes real through the force of her will or something? — and I'm not going to claim it works fully. But I thought that moment was pretty magical, and that it read quite clearly (although surprisingly).

Joshua Kosman said...

PS We disagree about Lang but agree about everything else — especially the astonishing improvement in Sigmundsson's singing since his last couple of appearances here.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Maybe Lang was better on opening night. Yesterday, she was just ghastly.

That's an interesting interpretation of what happens on Lohengrin's arrival, but I'm having some difficulty reconciling it with the chorus singing about the approaching swan. Is that also in her head?

She does conjure him up from afar (he as much as says this in his narration in Act III), but as I read it, the libretto requires us to believe he's real.

I am right now searching SF Gate for your review, by the way. And I have a small addition to make to the above: his bio says Grochowski is slated for some Wotans. No way, unless it's in a 900-seat theater somewhere.