Bayreuth assembles dream-team Lohengrin. What could possibly go wrong?

Bayreuth assembles dream-team Lohengrin. What could possibly go wrong?


norman lebrecht

July 25, 2017

Katharina Wagner has let it be known that next year’s new Lohengrin production (succeeding the one with the rats) will feature Robert Alagna as the hero and Anja Harteros as Elsa. The sought-after Harteros replaces Anne Netrebko, the original choice of conductor Christian Thielemann.

There is combustive potential in that team.

Waltraud Meier returns as Ortrud after an incredibly long absence, Georg Zeppenfeld sings King Heinrich and Tomasz Konieczny is Telramund. The show will be staged by Bayreuth’s first American director, Yuval Sharon.

What can possibly go wrong?

In other Bayreuth news: Placido Domingo will conduct next summer’s Walküre.


  • Olassus says:

    Alagna in his German-language stage debut, to answer the question — everyone else has sung their role before and worked with CT before.

  • Edgar says:

    Let’s see who will be actually onstage next year.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Lots can go wrong. Alagna does not speak the German language, for one. Go figure. Meier is totally out of voice at this stage in her life. Another demerit. And who knows what this Yuval Sharon will make of the work? I mean, what may be “sensational” in an auto repair garage in LA may not work out at the Green Hill. So huge potential for things to go south. Speaking of going south, WTF is Domingo doing <> Die Walküre there? Did I say WTF?!

    • Ungeheuer says:

      ….. WTF is Domingo doing LEARNING TO CONDUCT Die Walküre there?!
      (Oh I did say WTF).

      • Olassus says:

        It really is a disgrace that the festival would allow him to do that — one of Wagner’s strongest achievements and a real conductor’s opera.

        If he wants to do something at Bayreuth before he retires, why not give him one or two performances as Amfortas or Kurwenal?

      • AMetFan says:

        You did say it, and I will tell you what I tell my 7 and 9 year olds when they tell me that some of their classmates use bad words. I assure them that it is only because their classmates’ vocabulary is not developed sufficiently to adeqately express themselves. It is a lesson well-taken by my sons.

    • Hélène Adam says:

      I agree with you.
      Dream Team ? That’s not serious…
      No-one knows how Alagna sing in german language, and if he is able to sing Wagner, how talk about dream choice ?
      And Waltraud Meier has a very tired voice, especially for the role of Ortrud.
      Thomas Tomasz Konieczny is a good Telramund but the best ? Certainly no. René Pape is better for exemple…
      Thielemann is the better for conduct Wagner ? No, never ! I prefer Petrenko but he won’t go to Bayreuth….

      Only Anja Harteros is a right choice and, I think, the best for Elsa.

      • Stefan Treddel says:

        You are commenting on things you clearly have no clue of! Petrenko conducted the current Ring production when it was new and René Pape does of course not sing Telramund.

      • kable says:

        René Pape doesn’t sing Telramund.

  • Anon says:

    Domingo? Walküre? As conductor?
    Thielemann is a narcissist (“it’s ok if all the other conductors are worse than me, so I’m unchallenged as the one eyed among the blind”) and Katharina is an idiot.
    That is really disgraceful and the board and state government should move quickly to end this travesty and finally take control of what they already pay for, before the damage becomes substantial and irreversible.

  • Fionn MacCumhaill says:

    Will this be yet another daft Eurotrash Lohengrin production like the rat costumes. A lead who cannot do German does not bode well. I suppose he could sing his part in Italian, bit like Telemann’s Orfeo und Orasia, which has three languages!

    When I saw the rat Lohengrin, I kept my eyes closed as did many sitting near me. It would be nice if for once we could have a Lohengrin with real plate armour, chain mail and horn, they could make a Swan using some sort of drone.

  • Edgar says:

    Here we are: already “Theater vor dem Theater”. Bayreuth never fails to entertain. Never mind. Better Wagner is heard an seen elsewhere for quite some time now. Such as in Tanglewood recently; a superb Rheingold which I was fortunate to attend.

    • Phineas Fogg says:

      You know old chap, I joined a Wagner Society years ago, in order to see the Green hill etc, but to be honest it was really a diassappointment an over inflated, expensive con trick, the productions were consistently terrible. It seems they just use it for experimental stage design. I have long since given it up and Wagner and adopted the barock!

  • Andrew Condon says:

    I hope Domingo realises quite what a challenge he is taking on. Even the very finest conductors – Solti for example – have struggled with the unique set up of stage/pit at Bayreuth. I found these comments by Mark Elder: “The problem about conducting at Bayreuth, more than any other, is the covered pit, and that is something that takes a lot of time to get used to. That’s why over the years there have been several conductors who have conducted at Bayreuth regularly. They know how to make it work. I shall never forget the experience of starting to rehearse there at the stage and orchestra level and realising how difficult it was going to be.

    It’s unique what the conductor has to go through: if the conductor hears the singers exactly with the orchestra, then it’s wrong in the auditorium. The singers have to be slightly behind the orchestra the whole time.”

    • Renee Phlegming says:

      If he screws up, I hope those diehard Wagnerites will give him a piece of their mind with a thunderous boo.

  • Mathieu says:

    Big Zeppenfeld fan here, fwiw!

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    Why everyone here seems to hate the rat production?
    I watched it several times and to be honest, I didn’t dislike it. At least it has its own iconic visual language. I always like this kind of clean and bold stage + costume design.

    It’s certainly much better than most of those “conservative” productions out there. You will be on the safe side if you just repeat what others have been doing. But shouldn’t we encourage stage directors to try out new ideas?

    • Donald Kane says:

      A meaningless phrase, “iconic visual language”, places these remarks in
      the same rats nest you claim to have liked.

    • Maans Oosthuizen says:

      Wagnerians should (if possible) develop a sense of humor. Read interview with Neuenfels if you do not agree.

      • Phineas Fogg says:

        I myself have gone off Wagner, I used to think he was tuneless and bombastic, after listening to his stuff for over 40 years , I still think so, not a bloke to take to a desert island.

    • Ivanhoe says:

      Folk want to see Lohengrin in gleaming armour plate, sword, horn a real or life like swan they do not wish to see some over egged ham fisted noddy production in rat suits, which has no bearing on the story. Bayreuth really has gone down the U-bend.

  • Maans Oosthuizen says:

    Why is Domingo allowed to conduct part of the Ring? Has this ever happened before?

    • Mark says:

      The only time I can remember different conductors in the Ring at Bayreuth was 1967. Karl Böhm Shared the duties with Otmar Suitner because of the Philips recording. Suitner conducted Rheingold and Siegfried and Böhm the remainder.
      I have no comment on the Domingo affair, I am still too shocked!

  • Phineas Fogg says:

    Folks read this account of Bayreuth in 1891 by Mark Twain, it is hilarious and spot on. Nothing has changed except the prices. I like when he says he enjoyed the music, despite the singing! You should not take Wagner and Bayreuth too seriously, women in armour with shields collected the fallen, blonde bloke penetrates blow up dragon with plastic sword, ugh sounds like a LGT convention. After the first Ring in 1872 the whole place went bust. It burns more cash than those RHI pellet boilers in NI.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Question I’ve asked before, but no one seems to know… who actually owns the Bayreuth complex?

    • Treemonisha says:

      The Festspielhaus is (according to the German Wikipedia) owned by the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung, a non-profit foundation ruled by a assembly with the following composition:

      Bundesrepublik Deutschland: 5 Stimmen
      Freistaat Bayern: 5 Stimmen
      Familie Wagner: 4 Stimmen
      Stadt Bayreuth: 3 Stimmen
      Gesellschaft der Freunde von Bayreuth: 2 Stimmen
      Bayerische Landesstiftung: 2 Stimmen
      Bezirk Oberfranken: 2 Stimmen
      Oberfrankenstiftung: 1 Stimme

      The foundation has a board composed by one member chosen by the Wagner family, one chosen by Bayern and one by Germany. The foundation also names who shal run the festival.

  • Anon says:

    The strength of Bayreuth always was, and IMO continues to be, the focus on artistic merits and diligently rehearsed performances.
    Bayreuth did not need to attract a superficial type of festival audience that goes for names instead of musical quality, and cared for the quality of champagne and finger food at the intermission bistros as much as for what is on stage.
    Now sadly, somehow, this seems to be about to change.
    Sad to see the leadership duo in Bayreuth so out of touch with Bayreuth’s legacy, to engage a bad conductor like Domingo (who has other qualities).

    I’m wondering what is the other side of the deal regarding Domingo. Did Thielemann want him in Dresden for PR reasons, and the Bayreuth gig is the price Domingo asked for?
    Some coproduction with L.A. opera and Dresden maybe?