Wagner-Lohengrin (Hagen/Treleaven/Ketelsen/Liceu/Weigle) (NTSC) (2006) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Jul-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Main Menu Audio & Animation
Booklet
Trailer-4
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 223:43
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:28)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Pietro d'Agostino
Studio
Distributor
Euroarts
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Reinhard Hagen
John Treleaven
Emily Magee
Hans-Joachim Ketelsen
Luana DeVol
Robert Bork
Case ?
RPI ? Music Richard Wagner


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
English
French
Spanish
Catalan
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Lohengrin was Richard Wagner's sixth opera, completed in 1848 and first performed in 1850 under the baton of his future father-in-law Franz Liszt. Wagner felt that with Lohengrin he had pushed the Germanic form of opera to the furthest possible extent, and decided to rewrite the laws of opera, first in print and then on the stage. Lohengrin, unlike his previous effort Tännhauser, was a success, not surprisingly given the beauty of the music and the memorable tunes. One such melody, the Bridal Chorus which immediately follows the Act III Prelude, is known by virtually everyone having been appropriated for use at weddings with new words as Here Comes the Bride.

    The story is based on mediaeval German folklore with the real-life Henry the Fowler as one of the supporting characters. The heir to the Dukedom of Brabant has disappeared, and the scheming Ortrud prevails upon her dense husband Friedrich von Telramund to accuse the heir's sister Elsa of having done away with her brother. King Henry calls for a trial by combat, but no-one comes forward to defend Elsa. Just when all seems lost a boat towed by a swan appears, carrying the titular hero. He agrees to defend Else provided that if victorious she marries him, but does not ask who he is or where he comes from. She agrees and the hero vindicates her by defeating Telramund in combat, though he spares his life.

    But this isn't enough for Ortrud as she desires to have her husband rule Brabant, and thus she schemes to sow doubts in Elsa's mind in order to get her to ask the forbidden questions.

    The performance on this two-DVD set comes from the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and was taped in July 2006. Unfortunately this is one of those Regietheatre productions where the stage director (in this case Peter Konwitschny) has decided to try to tell a different story to that told in the actual opera. Here we have the knights as schoolchildren, Henry as a prefect (I think) and Lohengrin seemingly either a new boy or perhaps even a teacher having an affair with one of the pupils. It's hard to tell what the intended narrative is because it doesn't really work, as you would expect. Most of the opera is set in a single school room, with desks that get moved around a lot. This contributes to plenty of stage noises. The final scene is in an outdoor playground (I think). It's not as offensive a production as those that regularly adorn opera houses these days - the production having originated in 1998 - but it's nothing like the composer intended and it works against the dramatic effects that Wagner intended.

    Well, if you don't like the production you can turn the video off and listen to the music by itself. The orchestra under Sebastian Weigle give a superb account of the music, right from the perfectly judged opening prelude. There are a few moments that don't gel together as they should but these are few and far between. As to the singing, well in a professional review you would probably get an account of how well the singers acted with their voices. That's beyond my capabilities so I will concentrate on the quality of their voices and their physical acting. The role of Elsa is taken by American soprano Emily Magee, who sings quite well, certainly better than on her 1998 Bayreuth recording. She also acts very well and looks quite fetching in ponytails and white blouse. Ahem. Luana DeVol (Ortrud) is excellent, a bit screechy at times but her acting is first-class. Incidentally I believe that she is Magee's mother-in-law. Hans-Joachim Ketelsen is convincing as the easily-influenced Telramund, and Reinhard Hagen is an adequate Henry. As to John Treleaven's Lohengrin, I remain unconvinced. Initially he is a bit off-key but this improves as the performance progresses. However I don't think his voice is really suited to this role. There are signs of strain and he lacks the power and burnished voice of the best Lohengrins. His acting is just adequate. Possibly in a different era when there wasn't a dearth of Wagnerian heldentenors he would not have gotten the opportunities that he has in the major roles, and would have stayed with the less demanding tenor roles that seem to be his forte. To his credit though he tries hard and retains the same level of vocal output throughout the performance, only faltering near the very end.

    Frankly I think there are a few Lohengrins on DVD that visually would serve the viewer better than this one. The best I have seen on video is not yet available on DVD: a production from Bayreuth directed by Werner Herzog and featuring Cheryl Studer as Elsa. Even then it is not ideal, Paul Frey being an weak Lohengrin. There is a good performance from Vienna with Studer and Plácido Domingo, and judging by the trailer on the present disc another Bayreuth performance starring Peter Hofmann looks the goods.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The production was shot on video in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is an NTSC transfer and is on two discs.

    The video presentation is above average for an opera DVD, with little of the aliasing that is rife on some discs. I noticed some aliasing on the schoolroom windows during Act II but that was about it. The stage lighting is quite bright and this makes detail easy to see. The usual caveats for a live opera recording apply, in that the cameras are some distance from the performers and therefore in wider shots detail is lacking. Colour is quite good for once given the bright lighting.

    There is some occasional edge enhancement but you need to look closely to see it.

    Optional subtitles are provided, but they are switched off by default. The English subtitles are generally fine, a good size in white and most of the time they appear on the screen long enough to be read.

    Disc One is dual-layered with the layer break positioned sensibly to minimise disruption at 79:28. Disc two contains Act Three and is single-layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three audio tracks. I listened to the DTS 5.1 track for one act and the Linear PCM stereo track for the other acts, and sampled the Dolby Digital 5.1 track for the purposes of this review.

    The DTS recording is bright and full-sounding. The soundstage is very much directed to the front speakers. The rear speakers get some music at a lower volume level and some audience noises, but they are not used for any directional effects, which is as it should be for this kind of material. The subwoofer gets a workout with the LFE channel carrying a little too much bass. It also emphasises the stage noises which are a bit intrusive, especially when the knights/schoolboys are moving around the stage or moving the desks about the stage.

    The audio can be a little harsh during louder passages. This is more noticeable on the Linear PCM stereo track. The stereo track though seems to have a better defined soundstage and slightly more detail than the DTS surround track, but it is a close run thing. There appears to be little difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital surround tracks, and even the volume level difference is not as pronounced as it usually is.

    There is one issue with audio sync. Towards the end of In Fernem Land our Lohengrin appears to have had a vocal accident, as the audio briefly does not sync with the video. The lack of synchronisation is marked as it appears that Treleaven sang the word gesandt much shorter than the audio indicates. It seems that the audio for this portion has been post-synched. It has been done well enough that I did not notice any joins in the audio.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    Scenes from the production with some of the music.

Booklet

    This booklet has photographs from the production and, in several languages, an essay that tries but fails to justify what we see on the stage.

Trailers (11:10)

    There are four trailers on Disc Two, for Schreker's Die Gezeichneten, a Lohengrin from Bayreuth that looks better than this one, and Das Rheingold and Die Walküre from the Stuttgart Ring cycle.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As usual, this is the same DVD that is released in other regions, so the only reason to shop overseas is price. And as usual, the overseas releases tend to be quite a bit cheaper than they are here.

Summary

    Visually, this production of Lohengrin is a bit of a dead loss though as a audio performance it isn't bad.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    A few minor extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-AX4ASIS for surrounds, Elektra Reference for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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