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Richard Wagner

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Ontario-born Paul Frey made his Bayreuth Festival debut in 1987 as Lohengrin in this production by German film director Werner Herzog (of Fitzcarraldo fame). The production both launched and established the Canadian Helden- tenor's international career. Between 1987 and 1993, Frey starred in Herzog's production 37 times, setting a Bayreuth record for the most performances of Lohengrin by a single artist. Since Frey, now retired, recorded relatively little, we are fortunate to have this 1990 document of him during his prime.


American Cheryl Studer, with her radiant, youthful-sounding soprano and expressive acting, is ideally cast as Elsa. Gabriela Schnaut's Ortrud, on the other hand, is a bit like Ethel Merman on steroids. But while her powerhouse voice may not be pretty, it certainly has dramatic impact--as witness her riveting Act II curse. Ekkehard Wlaschiha is clearly overparted as Telramund--particularly in his Act II confrontation with Lohengrin--while Manfred Schenk makes a pallid King Henry. In addition to Eike Wilm Schulte's outstanding, stentorian Herald, mention should be made of the sonorous Bayreuth Festival Chorus directed by Norbert Balatsch. Peter Schneider conducts with authority, but with a certain anonymity.

Henning von Gierke's handsome sets and costumes upstage Herzog's static direction. The opening and closing scenes are particularly effective--all ice, stone, snow and barren trees, lit by a misty yet luminous cold winter light. The moonlit River Scheldt in Act II features real water on stage, with waves audibly lapping the shoreline. Only the Act III bridal scene, with the marriage bed set in the middle of a rough-hewn northern tundra, seems out of place.--NC
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Title Annotation:DVDs
Publication:Opera Canada
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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