Georg Zeppenfeld, Klaus Florian Vogt, Annete Dasch, Petra Lang, Jukka Rasilainen, Samuel Youn; Bayreuth Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
Opus Arte OA CD9034 D199:43 mins (3 discs)
This recording live from the 2011 Bayreuth Festival is actually the soundtrack of the DVD released six years ago. This was the notorious staging by elderly enfant terrible Hans Neuenfels, which Michael Tanner described in these pages as ‘outrageous, indeed disgusting’ – set in a laboratory, with the chorus in rat costumes. The CD release avoids such distractions, but retains extraneous howls and other noise.
Andris Nelsons’s conducting was widely praised then, but despite the sleeve note quote he doesn’t generate ‘blazing intensity’. His approach throughout is expansive, and in the overture he fails to build up the tension of the approaching Grail vision. The best singing comes from Annette Dasch’s Elsa, although her vibrato occasionally verges on unsteadiness; Georg Zeppenfeld’s mellow but light King Henry, short on low resonance; and Samuel Youn’s Herald. Petra Lang’s Ortrud, rising from mezzo to dramatic soprano, sounds forced and sometimes squally, but splendidly venomous; Jukka Rasilainen’s Telramund, though, is under-characterised and ranting. Klaus Florian Vogt’s Lohengrin displays a middleweight voice distinguished by a curious upper range that some call delicate, others crooning and mannered. He certainly doesn’t blend otherworldliness and heroism as effectively as Bayreuth predecessors like Sandor Konya, and sounds better in his later recordings under Marek Janowski and particularly Mark Elder. The chorus sing sturdily, despite their rat heads.
Mike Scott Rohan