Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard [Classical] Wagner, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra|
A spectacular live Lohengrin
Spartro1 | 05/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Live performances are often things that can be very hit and miss. In this case, Wolfgang Sawallisch's 1962 performance of Lohengrin from the Bayreuth Festival is definitely a hit. I got this performance as part of the Wagner: Great Operas from The Bayreuth Festival box, which I just can't say enough good things about. Anyway, this is a performance not to be missed.
Firstly, the musicians are great. Anja Silja was all of 22 years old when she made this recording, but she sounds incredible. She is also extremely good at conveying a wide range of emotions, which is a testament to her skills as an actress. James King is an incredible, otherworldly Lohengrin. He is even more alive here than in the Kempe recording. Astrid Varnay and Ramon Vinay however absolutely steal the show in this set. Varnay is the embodiment of evil as Ortrud, and she helps to make the second act absolutely delightful. Ramon Vinay is a not-so-submissive Telramund, and he sings very well. Franz Crass is a fine King Heinrich, and the Bayreuth Chorus is in find sound here, making the whole opera a veritable sound-feast. The orchestra is also very good, and the brass in particular shine.
Sound quality is never a problem here. The Bayreuth acoustic is captured very well and it all sounds very natural. Of course, there are some audience noises but never is it great enough to take away from the experience.
I would recommend this recording to those interested in a good live performance in a heartbeat. Although the conditions are not as secure such as in a studio version, this recording has a crackle of excitement that is necessary for a good performance of Wagner.
A treasure from Bayreuth, circa 1962
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/26/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There aren't many live Lohengrins on CD with this kind of top-tier casting, excellent stereo sound (close-up for the singers, but detailed and full for the orchestra in the covered pit as well), good conducting, and above all the flavor of a special night at the opera. In terms of execution, orchestra and chorus are exemplary, and Sawallisch, though not inspired, holds the proceedings together well--the orchestra sounds better than under Krauss, Kempe, Knappertsbusch and other noted maestros in their live Wagner recordings.
The cast consists of Bayreth regulars, but there are two fascinating singers here: Ramon Vinay, who sang Tristan under Karajan in 1953, reverts to his original baritone range as Telramund, and Anja Silja, at the amazing age of 21, sings what must be the youngest Elsa on records. Vinay's German is as garbled as Domingo's, but he's forceful and dominant. Silja soounds young, light of voice, and fresh in charcterization--her gleaming tones make her one of the most convincing Elsas I've heard. Silja's only real deficit is that she doesn't communicate suffering. But what a relief not to have the part taken by a Brunnhilde or Sieglinde struggling to scale back a la Jessye Norman on the Solti set (Decca). Varnay is a powerful, intense Ortrud whose voice is a bit worn and too mature.
Which beings us to the central character, Lohengrin himself. Jess Thomas's mild-mannered portrayal is a known quantity from the famous Kempe recording (EMI), and he's better there. The role is so taxing that Thomas can't sustain it over a three-hour period the way he could with breaks in the studio. The voice is youthful but not very strong, and its timbre isn't to my taste compared to competitors like Heppner, Jerusalem, and above all Sandor Konya. But Thomas certainly owned the role onstage in this period and performs it expertly.
In all, despite my criticisms, this is a convincing performance that evokes Bayreuth perfectly--well worth a listen.