A new 'Lohengrin,' threatened by war in Ukraine, comes to the Met
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, July 25, 2024

A new 'Lohengrin,' threatened by war in Ukraine, comes to the Met
Piotr Beczala as the title character in Wagner’s “Lohengrin” during a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Jan. 21, 2023. Francois Girard’s staging of “Lohengrin,” originally a co-production with the Bolshoi Theater, arrives a year after its Moscow premiere, which coincided with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

by Joshua Barone

NEW YORK, NY.- “Let me adjust it,” the conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin said to Donald Palumbo, the chorus master of the Metropolitan Opera, on a recent morning there. “I know how to adjust it.”

Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s music director, was running through the first act of Wagner’s “Lohengrin,” which opens in a new staging on Sunday. The score had come to a pianissimo — immediately after the title character, an otherworldly visitor to a divided land, comes to the rescue of Elsa and declares his love for her — and the chorus singers needed to alter their sound to accommodate the acoustics of their hooded costumes.

To the orchestra, Nézet-Séguin said, “I need this to be unbelievably soft.” Then, to the performers onstage, he asked for more power, and in a sign of solidarity, flipped the cap of his hoodie over his head. “Maybe it’s good if I do this,” he added, to laughter throughout the auditorium.

It was one of many lighthearted moments in the rehearsal process for this new “Lohengrin,” a production by François Girard that has otherwise had a difficult road to the Met. Developed in scattered homes and studios during the early coronavirus pandemic, it premiered last year in Moscow on Feb. 24 — the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

Originally, the staging had been a coproduction between the Met and the Bolshoi Theater, conceived for Anna Netrebko, the now-fallen star soprano. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, flew to Moscow to attend a dress rehearsal; by the time he got back to New York, the invasion was underway.

In Russia, Girard had woken up on that Thursday in February, the day of the opening, thinking that war was a distant possibility. “I heard all the signs that it was coming, but there was also a common understanding that it was a bluff,” Girard recalled. And he had been occupied with the looming premiere: Rehearsals had been repeatedly thwarted by the worldwide wave of omicron variant infections (about half the Bolshoi chorus was out sick at any given moment); a skeleton staff of assistants; and the challenges of staging the first Wagner opera at the theater in nearly 50 years.

When Girard arrived at the Bolshoi that day, he was told about the invasion. There were tears in the theater. But the show went on, and was greeted by cheering ovations. It was a reminder, Girard recalled thinking, as Russians bowed onstage alongside Ukrainians, that “music and opera is one of those places where human beings meet.”

“It is our modern church, our modern chapel,” he added. “And at that moment, our chapel was on fire.”

Girard left Moscow on Saturday — a day earlier than planned. By Sunday, there were no more flights home. By Monday, Gelb had severed ties with Putin-affiliated Russian artists, and the new “Lohengrin” was in jeopardy.

Gelb backed out of the co-production agreement, a decision that, given U.S. sanctions, he said felt legally sound. “But,” he added, “that didn’t solve the problem of getting the scenery here. Even if we wanted to, the government wouldn’t allow anything to come in from Russia.”

The question was whether to move forward. The Met had a promising cast lined up already — including the sopranos Christine Goerke and Tamara Wilson, along with the tenor Piotr Beczala as Lohengrin — and had just announced its coming season. It couldn’t simply revive its Robert Wilson production, a troubled, difficult one that hadn’t been put on since 2006 and whose scenery had begun to disintegrate in storage. So Gelb decided that Girard’s staging would have to be rebuilt from scratch, which would add over $1 million to the show’s budget.

Now, Girard’s production joins two other Wagner works that he has directed at the Met: a critically adored “Parsifal” from 2013 and a much less loved “Der Fliegende Holländer,” whose opening night in 2020 was bedeviled by noise disruptions and technical problems, and whose run was quickly cut short by the pandemic shutdown of performing arts. (Girard’s “Holländer” will return to the Met in late May, revised by him; between “Lohengrin” and that production he will stage “The Hunting Gun” with Miki Nakatani and Mikhail Baryshnikov.)

Gelb has been working with Girard since the 1990s, when Gelb was an executive at Sony and Girard was making the movie “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.” They later collaborated on “The Red Violin,” with Gelb suggesting the composer John Corigliano to write a time- and world-traveling soundtrack to be performed by the violinist Joshua Bell.

During Gelb’s tenure at the Met, which began in 2006, he has phased out nearly all of the older productions of Wagner’s 10 canonical operas, which had been staged with old-fashioned naturalism and grandeur by Otto Schenk. (Even the replacements are beginning to be replaced, with a “Tristan und Isolde” coming soon from Yuval Sharon, and a new “Ring” cycle beginning in 2027.) So far, Girard’s “Parsifal” has been the most successful among them.

And this “Lohengrin” is being treated as a sequel. Girard said that he sees all of Wagner’s mature operas as “a grand fresco,” and these two are more related than any of the others. “Lohengrin” was written long before “Parsifal” but takes place long after; Lohengrin is Parsifal’s son.

During the glassy, ethereal Prelude of “Lohengrin,” the moon is shown repeatedly rising, first slowly, then rapidly, indicating the passage of time. Although the scenic design — a little bit “Star Wars” and a little bit DeviantArt, by Tim Yip, the Academy Award-winning designer of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” — bears little resemblance to the “Parsifal” set, Lohengrin enters wearing the same black trousers and white button-down shirt of the grail knights in that opera.

“He comes from the other production,” Girard said. “It’s almost like we went down a hill, but we’re still looking at the same sky.”

Lohengrin comes, as well, from a more divine realm to save Elsa from persecution amid conflict and mercurial alliances — between paganism and monotheism, between the Holy Roman Empire and opposing forces. To reflect the shifting allegiance of the masses, Yip has created hooded robes that, through precise choreography and with the help of magnets, can be configured to reveal an inner layer of red, green or white, colors matched to specific leaders.

This opera and “Parsifal” are also musically related — particularly in their Preludes, Nézet-Séguin said. “It’s the music of the otherworldly,” he added. “It’s something that’s almost suspended in air.”

But where “Parsifal” exists purely in the domain of the “immaterial,” he said, “Lohengrin” alternates between the harmonic language of its title hero and the more earthbound music of the other characters. On Sunday, Nézet-Séguin will have conducted the two works at the Met; he said that while he considers “Parsifal” a work of genius, “‘Lohengrin’ is more relatable because you get the best of both worlds.”

Existing somewhere between those two moods, too, is Beczala as Lohengrin. More known for the Italian repertoire, he took on this, his sole Wagnerian role, in 2017 at the urging of the conductor Christian Thielemann at the Semperoper Dresden in Germany; he had recently sung some operetta, and Thielemann told him, “There’s not a huge difference from Lehár to Wagner.”

Now, Beczala is singing in his fourth “Lohengrin” production, and his third new one. He said that he approaches the role by incorporating elements from others he has played. “There are moments,” he added, “where I can get a little from ‘Ballo,’ or ‘Rusalka.’ The prince in ‘Rusalka’ and Lohengrin actually have nearly the same tessitura, so I can build on my experience.”

For his part, Nézet-Séguin welcomes Beczala’s sound. “He never saw himself as a Wagner tenor,” Nézet-Séguin said. “But there is a luminous quality in his voice — a lot of light, like sunshine. He can float it, but he can also bring in the heroic aspects. That’s hard, and it’s what we need for this role.”

Nézet-Séguin believes that Beczala could sing Parsifal one day. Hopefully, he said, it would be at the Met, which after Sunday will be capable of presenting Girard’s “Parsifal” and “Lohengrin” productions in repertory, an idea that was already being talked about at rehearsals this week.

“To do these two operas together would be a real experience,” Nézet-Séguin said. “This production is so well thought of as the sequel to ‘Parsifal,’ and I love this idea — that you could be reading two huge chapters of the same story.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

February 24, 2023

David Hockney goes high tech

Abbot Hall to reopen in May 2023

Van Gogh Museum's first anniversary exhibition: 'Choosing Vincent'

An expanded and transformed Bruce Museum to open on April 2, 2023

George Condo: People Are Strange now on view at Hauser & Wirth West Hollywood

New-York Historical Society presents 'Kara Walker: Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)'

Miles McEnery Gallery presents the work of Hans Hofmann through March 11th

High Museum of art opens first major museum exhibition dedicated to Joseph Stella's nature paintings

Nye & Company announces three-day Chic & Antique Estate Treasures Auction

Rick Newman, whose comedy club made careers, dies at 81

Morphy Auctions announces collaboration with Brian Lebel's Old West Events

Almine Rech announces representation of Indonesian artist Roby Dwi Antono in Europe, UK, United States

Phoenix Art Museum to unveil newly restored digital artwork by Julian Opie

MOMENTUM Biennale participants announced

Jamel Shabazz works presented in ALBUMS reflecting portraits of NY's communities from 1970s to '90s

BAMPFA signals new direction for curatorial department with three senior appointments

Joyce Theater expands to the East Village

Fine Autograph and Artifacts sale featuring royalty highlighted by historic King James VI warrant up for auction

Tang Teaching Museum awarded $80,000 NYSCA grant

Leland Little to hold Signature Spring Auction

Christoph Waltz has some thoughts

A new 'Lohengrin,' threatened by war in Ukraine, comes to the Met

UniX Gallery opens 'Around the World in 24 Days'

Chisenhale Gallery opens the first solo exhibition in the UK by Johannesburg-based artist Ravelle Pillay

Hurela Deep Wave Hair: Trendy Hairstyle


Best Drawing Tools for Beginners

Simple Fashion Tips To Help You Dress To Impress

Sculpt your muscles, burn your fat or treat your abdominal diastasis with Emsculpt.

Exploring the Intersection Between Arts and Crafts with LEGO Art

Creating Your Dream Pool: Tips From an Experienced Custom Pool Builder

The Most Essential Information about SILK KIMONO

Top 5 Payday Loan Companies for Bad Credit in 2023: A Comprehensive Summary

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful