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LOHENGRIN BY THE GREEK NATIONAL OPERA

The new production of Wagner's opera "Lohengrin" on the 29th of January, marked the end of the term of Greek National Opera's Director, Myron Michailides, who also conducted the performance. It was a production originating from the Welsh National Opera, and Poland's Teatre Wielki.

  The Wagnerian repertoire is in fact rarely performed -if ever- at the Olympia Theater, (the old home of the Greek National Opera) , due to the limited space in the pit which is unsuitable for an orchestra of Wagnerian proportions..therefore all Wagner productions are presented at the Athens Concert Hall, until G.N.O moves to its new theater in Faliron built by the Niarchos Foundation, or at the Herodus Atticus Theater during the Festival period in the summer.

Having already presented the "Flying Dutchman", and "Tristan and Isolde", the trilogy so to speak closed with this production of "Lohengrin"The Sets, Costumes, and Staging were by Antony MacDonald who stripped the opera of its Romantic nature, and moved the action to a place that looked like an abandoned factory in an Eastern European country with the Court of the King dressed in pseudo historical costumes of Wagner's period. Although I am not a fan of modern settings of classical works unless they are thoroughly thought out and executed, the present production had many interesting moments and in no way hindered the opera's"soul". There was a feeling of a Kingdom in decay , a Kingdom in despair, torn'd away by internal strife, longing for a saviour. The arrival of Lohengrin was well done with the barge bursting into the stage led by a blond swan.

  Peter Wedd's Lohengrin was exceptional. His voice reminded me of the good old days of Wagnerian Tenors, a breed in decay nowadays. His voice was smooth, brilliant, his phrasing impeccable, his singing full of sensitive passages, an impeccable performance in all counts. He is truly a great artist who merits a great career Joanna Fogasova tackled the role of Elsa with great aplomb and energy. As the evening evolved the voice became more secure and focused, with dramatic outbursts and beautiful pianissimos.

 

Martine Dike's Ortrud , was powerful and heroic, her voice ringing, although the top notes were somehow hard in various passages, but her portrayal of the vengeful betrayed woman was excellent.

  I always advocated that at the present state of his career Dimitris Platanias, should seriously consider Wagner. His voice is strong enough to fly over any "big" orchestra in any stage, including Bayreuth . His voice tackled the role Telramund with force and power. He is a model Wagnerian singer, and I sincerely hope that he will go on to pursue more Wagner roles.

 In the lesser but by no means unimportant roles of the King and the Herald, Tassos Apostolou and Dionissis Sourbis sang with good voices and acted their part well.

The chorus  was adequately prepared, apart from some awkward moments of coordination with

the pit but sang with force and presence.

One thing that was lamented by some of my German speaking friends present in the performance, was the inadequate German of most of the cast, not speaking the language myself, I have no opinion on the matter, but I can understand their frustration, since in Wagner's operas the text is of paramount importance The Orchestra of the G.N.O was at it's best , although at the very beginning the pianissimo of the strings proved taxing, but for the rest of the evening they were excellent.

  Myron Michailides conducted with exceptional energy and force, as well as sensitivity when necessary. He held the orchestra and the singers with an iron fist without allowance for flaring passages. It was a performance that showed the serious preparation that preceded it.

 All in all it was a great performance for which the Greek National Opera should be proud of, hoping that it is the forerunner for many more Wagner nights, especially now that its rehousing in a modern theater will give it the opportunity to tackle an up to now forbidden repertoire such as Wagner and R.Strauss.

As we learned recently the new season will in fact open with R.Strauss's "ELECTRA" with the great A.Baltsa as Clytemnestra.

 

Photos by V.Makris

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