Worth it for Heppner & Sweet, But Flawed Otherwise
aleibo31 | Dobbs Ferry, NY USA | 01/31/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I own six recordings of Lohengrin, and eagerly awaited this recording, having heard Heppner sing the role at the Met. On first listen I was very impressed with the overall recording, but immediately noticed the obvious flaws. Let me start out by saying that Ben Heppner is a perfect Lohengrin, as other reviewers have said the role is tailor made for him. It lies in the best part of his voice and allows him to showcase all of his many talents. Sharon Sweet is likewise a wonderful Elsa, maybe the best around, although I'd love to hear Deborah Voigt give it a try. She has a marvelous understanding of the role and ample voice to bring it to life. This recording is worth it just to hear these two. However, once Act II starts the obvious flaws of this set becomes readily apparant, sometimes painfully so. The Teleramund and Ortrud on this set are just awful, Sergei Leiferkus sounds very unconvincing, his metallic, slavic tone is all wrong for a German lord, and he butchers the language. Eva Marton, simply butchers the listeners ears; she shrieks, cracks and groans her way through the role. She makes Callas in 1975 sound good. She is simply just terrible for the role, I don't mind an ugly sounding Ortrud, Randova on Solti is not pretty but she is very convincing. The rest of the cast is quite good, Rootering and Terfel both sound great and bring a nice depth to their roles. All in all, I would reccomend this set to someone interested in hearing the finest Lohengren around today, and a great Elsa, but be warned most of Act II is pretty brutal. Do yourself a favor and listen to Act I up to Ortrud's appearance, skip most of Act II, and then sit back and luxuriate in a truly sublime Act III."
Gerald | 04/01/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Ben Heppner's Lohengrin is becoming world-famous, with experts saying things like "the role is tailor-made for Heppner." I did find his Lohengrin to be very good, but I prefer Plácido Domingo's performance for Solti. Heppner's voice and interpretation are excellent, but Domingo is even more fluid and effortless, and combines the ideal sound for the character with a superb interpretation. (Heppner's German, however, is much better.) Heppner, though, is the best Heldentenor the world has seen recently (I don't really think Domingo qualifies as a Heldentenor) and his intelligence as well as his voice make him a very promising budding star. He is by far the most important reason to hear this set, as the rest of the cast leaves a lot to be desired - with the exception of Jan-Hendrik Rootering, who produces gorgeous sound as the King (Sotin on the Solti is even better). Sharon Sweet as Elsa does sometimes get inside the character well, but her voice can sound rather unfocused and blowsy at many points. Colin Davis' conducting is good, but not exceptional. Sergei Leiferkus is awful as Telramund, with a voice that is so gravelly and rough that it makes you cringe just listening to it (although it does add to his portrayal of the villain!). Eva Marton, however, is even worse. She has developed a huge wobble in her voice that makes it extremely unpleasant to listen to her, and as Ortrud has a lot to sing in "Lohengrin," this sinks the set. If you are looking for a real "Lohengrin," turn to Solti on Decca/London. It has everything this recording so conspicuously lacks."
Gerald | 11/10/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very uneven set. Heppner is a fine Lohengrin, one of the best around. Sweet, while not the Elsa of one's dream, is better than average. Leiferkus is mediocre and Marton downright bad. Rootering and Terfel are excellent, though. A mixed bag. Look elsewhere!"
BJOERLING COMBINED WITH VICKERS
MOVIE MAVEN | New York, NY USA | 07/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was lucky enough to hear Ben Heppner and Deborah Voigt in Robert Wilson's miraculous production of Wagner's LOHENGRIN at the Metropolitan Opera a few seasons ago. And now, on RCA Victor, Heppner's superb, unrivaled performance has been captured in a recording that equals the best.I'd always thought that the still-available Rudolf Kempe version (from 1964) of this gorgeously romantic opera on EMI was untouchable. It has a star-studded cast the likes of which will not be collected again soon: Jess Thomas in the title role, the unmatchable Elizabeth Grummer as his love "Elsa," Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Christa Ludwig as "Telramund" and "Ortrud" and Gottlob Frick as "King Henry." But now on RCA Victor from 1994 comes this version conducted by Sir Colin Davis and it is very much worth purchasing. First of all, the sound is spectacular...RCA's engineers got everything right. Even with a sound system that is far from the best or most expensive (mine!) you feel as if you are smack in the middle of the conflict and romance. Davis leads a regal yet intimate, beautiful performance which is genuinely exciting from first moment to last. And secondly, and most importantly, there's Heppner's performance. He is,undoubedly, the finest heldentenor of our time and this recording is a testament to his artistry: the sweetness of Jussi Bjoerling combined with the fierce power of Jon Vickers. I hope he will soon take on some of those tenors' roles from the Italian repertory: "Otello," "Macbeth," and "Manrico" immediately come to mind.The supporting cast does well too, especially Eva Marton as "Ortrud" and Bryn Terfel doing a cameo as "The King's Herald." If Sharon Sweet is not my ideal choice for any role, she does well enough as "Elsa." RECOMMENDED."
Gerald | San Diego, CA | 04/21/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am a nut who owns 3 Lohengrins (Abbado,Solti,Davis) and have seen it with Abbado/Domingo/Studer at the Vienna State Opera a few years back. I really like Ben Heppner, his german is way better than Domingo's whose german makes me cringe. His voice is very powerful, whereas maybe not quite as luscious as Domingo's voice was back then. Sharon Sweet is a pretty good Elsa, although a tad shrill at times (prefer Studer and Norman). Marton is dramatically good but her voice is a bit too piercing. I like the pace of Davis' conducting and the lush orchestra sound. Sergei Leiferkus really bugs me with his "german" and his "S"s are awful. For the orchestra part I go with the Vienna PO (coincidentally I am Viennese-born, living in San Diego, CA now) but the Bavarians are definitely up to task."