“The operas of Richard Wagner have rarely been performed in Moscow in modern times.
<...> It came as quite a surprise, therefore, when Novaya Opera announced its decision to present Wagner's “Lohengrin” as its first new production of the current season. Though the theater has recently taken on two of the thorniest works in the entire operatic repertoire, Vincenzo Bellini's “Norma” and Giuseppe Verdi's “Nabucco”, with great success, it nevertheless seemed reasonable to question whether musical resources were really available for such a huge undertaking as “Lohengrin.”
The answer, at least as based on a preview performance at the end of February, turned out to be a resounding “yes.”
<…> Novaya Opera has long shown a knack for coming up with outstanding interpretations of very difficult roles by previously unheralded young soloists.<…> Indeed, Novaya Opera managed to find a truly outstanding Wagner interpreter for every solo part, a feat that no other Moscow opera house, including the Bolshoi, could likely match with its current roster of vocal talent.
Director Holten gave the opera a nicely delineated staging of high European standard, much aided by the abstract, vaguely Gothic sets and eclectic mixture of costumes by designer Steffen Aarfing. Holten's sympathy clearly seemed to lie on the side of the bewildered and distraught Elsa, with Lohengrin coming across more a cad than a hero.
Though his tempos occasionally seemed a bit rushed, conductor Latham-Koenig gave what was overall a noble and authoritative account of the opera and proved particularly skillful at maintaining the difficult balance between the large orchestral forces and the singers on stage”.
Friday, March 14, 2008
The Moscow Times
“In 2008, Holten staged Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Novaya Opera in Moscow, and it is still the best Wagner production to be watched and listened to in the capital”.
29 December 2014
“The very fact that Wagner’s Lohengrin has been produced at the Novaya Opera is a sensation: Wagner is a rare guest on the Moscow opera stage. Engaging the 34-year-old Dane Kasper Holten, who is anything but conservative, as the stage director for this production promised something quite unusual. And the expectations have come to fruition.
The monumental architectural sets by Steffen Aarfing, combined with his costumes and Jesper Kongshaug’s self-explanatory light, create a fantastic world of the conditionally attributed Middle Ages. Is it the Earth? Or a parallel world? But Lohengrin is easy to define: he is our contemporary, a politician, a successful businessman… At the same time he is notprone to self-analysis and all sorts of taboos unlike the characters of the Strugatsky brothers’ Hard to be a God. On the contrary, he came to the past to arrange his affairs.
Yet, the main merit of the production is that the music reigns there”.
“The Danish team led by stagedirector Kasper Holtenhas produced a good example of the European style, playing on the theme that Wagner’s Lohengrin is a messenger of another world. Everyone wears skins and armour, but Lohengrin wears a jacket and a wristwatch; he makes pre-election gestures and a scoundrel in general. Indeed, Wagner’s character is a celestial knight, and the earthly Elsa could not believe him entirely. The director is on Elsa’s side: how can you really believe a stranger, who doesn’t want to say his name. The depreciation of the original enables the director to express himself by adding gags counter to the libretto and music. However this is what amuses a part of the audience”.
6 March 2008 Issue 41 (2063)
“Holten has turned Wagner’s myth inside out. Lohengrin really comes from another world, but it is a world of dystopia. And his confrontation to Ortrud and Telramund is not a fight of Good and Evil, but a fight for power. And that’s all.
And what about music? It seems to clearly define what’s Good and what’s Evil. But it is not for nothing that Holten knows every bar in the score (this was mentioned at the press conference). He can make music his ally. And the Holy Grail theme in the performance relates to the knight that comes to Elsa in her dreams. And this Mr. Lohengrin easily appropriates her. By the way, it is not accidental that Elsa was blindfolded at the moment he appears. Lohengrin himself takes the band off, and Elsa starts back at first: the discrepancy is too big. But after all he has saved her life, and Elsa tries to persuade herself that he is the hero from her dreams. And the production appears to be about what self-deception and wishful thinking lead to. There Elsa is the only subject of the drama, the drama of lost illusions”.
Kultura, 13–19 March 2008, Number 10
“Is the production good? Incredibly so! The orchestra, led by Jan Latham-Koenig at the premiere, played as if it aimed to compensate for the emotional emptiness of so many years without Wagner. The music doesn’t need any excuses at all. Novaya Opera soloists Natalya Kreslina (Elsa), Andjey Beletsky (von Telramund), Elena Popovskaya (Ortrud, Friedrich’s wife) are splendid without any predilection. The “persons mentioned above” play their vocal and dramatic parts skillfully and confidently. Indeed, the pattern of their parts is drawn by the director very skillfully and, above all, for right reasons”.
Literaturnaya Gazeta, 12 March 2008
“Energetic and precise Latham-Koenig, who does not need superfluous gestures, masterfully makes the performance a whole: the orchestra can sound sometimes transparent, sometimes thunderous, but the singers are in constant balance with it. Skillfully built chamber scenes alternate withfull-fledged choruses and grandiose ritual scenes, in which the mighty brass band overwhelms the whole theatre with its blaring sounds”.
6 March 2008