Opera in three acts
Music Director: Jan Latham-Koenig
Stage Director: Kasper Holten
Stage Director assistant: Mette Hedegaard
Set and Costume Designer: Steffen Aarfing
Lighting Designer: Jesper Kongshaug
Chief choirmaster: Natalya Popovich
Choirmaster: Yulia Senyukova
Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes with two intermissions
Premiered on 29 February 2008
Recommended for 12+
Performed in German
For the first time in 70 years, Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin has been staged in Moscow. The old tale of Lohengrin, the mysterious knight of the Holy Grail, is romantic and, at the same time, frightening. The knight plays a decisive role both in the fate of Elsa, who is slanderously accused of having murdered her missing brother, and of the country plunged into chaos. He comes to Elsa's rescue and is ready to lead the country on condition that she never asks his name or origin. The girl breaks her oath, asking her beloved to reveal his mystery. Lohengrin discloses his identity, bringing Elsa’s brother back to her, but has to leave her for ever.
To work on its production of the opera, the Novaya Opera Theatre has invited Maestro Jan Latham-Koenig, a leading European conductor and a connoisseur of Wagnerian style, who many times conducted Lohengrin in different opera houses of the world. The maestro has always considered Wagner a special composer because of his unique music personality. What interests him in Lohengrin is not only the splendid music, but also the opera’s philosophic and historical aspects. According to Latham-Koenig, the production of Wagner’s Lohengrin in Novaya Opera is an important cultural event.
Novaya Opera’s Lohengrin has been produced by director Kasper Bech Holten and set designer Steffen Aarfing of the Danish Royal Opera, who scored a tremendous success with their staging of the four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung at the Danish Royal Opera in 2003-2006.
Says Kasper Holten:
The opera “Lohengrin” is interesting from two viewpoints. First, it is a love story in which a woman tries to love a man whom she will never be able to fully understand. Second, it is a story of a society in crisis, searching for a new way of development. The main hero, who at first looks bright and brilliant, may turn out not to be the one we are taking him for. As the story progresses, we begin to doubt whether he is really a hero.
The operas of Richard Wagner have rarely been performed in Moscow in modern times.
<...> It came as quite a surprise, therefore, when Novaya Opera announced its decision to present Wagner's "Lohengrin" as its first new production of the current season. Though the theater has recently taken on two of the thorniest works in the entire operatic repertoire, Vincenzo Bellini's "Norma" and Giuseppe Verdi's "Nabucco", with great success, it nevertheless seemed reasonable to question whether musical resources were really available for such a huge undertaking as "Lohengrin".
The answer, at least as based on a preview performance at the end of February, turned out to be a resounding "yes".
<…> Novaya Opera has long shown a knack for coming up with outstanding interpretations of very difficult roles by previously unheralded young soloists.<…> Indeed, Novaya Opera managed to find a truly outstanding Wagner interpreter for every solo part, a feat that no other Moscow opera house, including the Bolshoi, could likely match with its current roster of vocal talent.
Director Holten gave the opera a nicely delineated staging of high European standard, much aided by the abstract, vaguely Gothic sets and eclectic mixture of costumes by designer Steffen Aarfing. Holten's sympathy clearly seemed to lie on the side of the bewildered and distraught Elsa, with Lohengrin coming across more a cad than a hero.
Though his tempos occasionally seemed a bit rushed, conductor Latham-Koenig gave what was overall a noble and authoritative account of the opera and proved particularly skillful at maintaining the difficult balance between the large orchestral forces and the singers on stage.
Friday, March 14, 2008
The Moscow Times
In 2008, Holten staged Wagner’s "Lohengrin" at the Novaya Opera in Moscow, and it is still the best Wagner production to be watched and listened to in the capital.
29 December 2014
The very fact that Wagner’s "Lohengrin" has been produced at the Novaya Opera is a sensation: Wagner is a rare guest on the Moscow opera stage. Engaging the 34-year-old Dane Kasper Holten, who is anything but conservative, as the stage director for this production promised something quite unusual. And the expectations have come to fruition.
The monumental architectural sets by Steffen Aarfing, combined with his costumes and Jesper Kongshaug’s self-explanatory light, create a fantastic world of the conditionally attributed Middle Ages. Is it the Earth? Or a parallel world? But Lohengrin is easy to define: he is our contemporary, a politician, a successful businessman… At the same time he is notprone to self-analysis and all sorts of taboos unlike the characters of the Strugatsky brothers’ "Hard to be a God". On the contrary, he came to the past to arrange his affairs.
Yet, the main merit of the production is that the music reigns there.
The Danish team led by stagedirector Kasper Holtenhas produced a good example of the European style, playing on the theme that Wagner’s "Lohengrin" is a messenger of another world. Everyone wears skins and armour, but Lohengrin wears a jacket and a wristwatch; he makes pre-election gestures and a scoundrel in general. Indeed, Wagner’s character is a celestial knight, and the earthly Elsa could not believe him entirely. The director is on Elsa’s side: how can you really believe a stranger, who doesn’t want to say his name. The depreciation of the original enables the director to express himself by adding gags counter to the libretto and music. However this is what amuses a part of the audience.
6 March 2008 Issue 41 (2063)
Holten has turned Wagner’s myth inside out. Lohengrin really comes from another world, but it is a world of dystopia. And his confrontation to Ortrud and Telramund is not a fight of Good and Evil, but a fight for power. And that’s all.
And what about music? It seems to clearly define what’s Good and what’s Evil. But it is not for nothing that Holten knows every bar in the score (this was mentioned at the press conference). He can make music his ally. And the Holy Grail theme in the performance relates to the knight that comes to Elsa in her dreams. And this Mr. Lohengrin easily appropriates her. By the way, it is not accidental that Elsa was blindfolded at the moment he appears. Lohengrin himself takes the band off, and Elsa starts back at first: the discrepancy is too big. But after all he has saved her life, and Elsa tries to persuade herself that he is the hero from her dreams. And the production appears to be about what self-deception and wishful thinking lead to. There Elsa is the only subject of the drama, the drama of lost illusions.
13-19 March 2008, Number 10
Is the production good? Incredibly so! The orchestra, led by Jan Latham-Koenig at the premiere, played as if it aimed to compensate for the emotional emptiness of so many years without Wagner. The music doesn’t need any excuses at all. Novaya Opera soloists Natalya Kreslina (Elsa),Andjey Beletsky (von Telramund),Elena Popovskaya (Ortrud, Friedrich’s wife) are splendid without any predilection. The “persons mentioned above” play their vocal and dramatic parts skillfully and confidently. Indeed, the pattern of their parts is drawn by the director very skillfully and, above all, for right reasons.
12 March 2008
Energetic and precise Latham-Koenig, who does not need superfluous gestures, masterfully makes the performance a whole: the orchestra can sound sometimes transparent, sometimes thunderous, but the singers are in constant balance with it. Skillfully built chamber scenes alternate withfull-fledged choruses and grandiose ritual scenes, in which the mighty brass band overwhelms the whole theatre with its blaring sounds.
6 March 2008