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Your Reaction: What did you think of Wagner's Lohengrin?

Audiences reactions and press reviews of The Royal Opera's new production of Wagner's Romantic masterpiece.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

8 June 2018 at 10.16am | 36 Comments

Press reviews:
Times ★★★★★
Telegraph ★★★★
The Stage ★★★★
Arts Desk ★★★★
Financial Times ★★★★
Guardian ★★★★
Bachtrack ★★★

What did you think of Lohengrin?
Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Lohengrin runs until 1 July. Tickets are still available.

Lohengrin is a co-production with Opera Vlaanderen, and is staged with generous support from Ruth and Stuart Lipton, Maggie Copus, Peter and Fiona Espenhahn, Malcolm Herring, John G. Turner & Jerry G. Fischer, Mercedes T. Bass, Mrs Philip Kan, The Metherell family, the Lohengrin Production Syndicate and The Wagner Circle

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

8 June 2018 at 10.16am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged by David Alden, Lohengrin, Production, review, your reaction

This article has 36 comments

  1. Dewi Hughes responded on 8 June 2018 at 3:59pm Reply

    Excellent musically, individual singers, Chorus and orchestra, but I was really puzzled by the sets. Buildings at an angle and open steelwork? The lighting could be better particularly at the start of Act 1. However some of the later effects really did work well with the music and the trumpeters were super. Altogether an evening not to be missed.

  2. Michael Ward responded on 8 June 2018 at 7:01pm Reply

    Superb singing from the chorus and the cast. So much for those who felt that Jennifer Davis was too inexperienced to sing Elsa! An excellent role debut. But do we really need more Nazi undertones in a Wagner opera? Nevertheless, some brilliant moments in the staging (especially at Lohengrin's entrance and also the ending) and the problem of the swan well managed by the projection of beating wings. With the orchestra on top form, this is one of the best Wagner productions at the ROH for many years.

  3. Jonathan Sydenham responded on 8 June 2018 at 8:36pm Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. And the orchestra and chorus were absolutely extraordinary ... However, I came very close to shouting down to the conductor to ask him to start again. The opening bars of the prelude to the first act were ruined for me by a mobile phone vibrating several seats away. This happens with depressing regularity.

    • Rog responded on 9 June 2018 at 12:10am

      Agreed. People need to be told that ‘off’ means ‘OFF’. Not silent vibrate mode. Off.

  4. Gwyneth Macaulay responded on 9 June 2018 at 2:47pm Reply

    The ROH's orchestra (with extended brass sections in the side boxes) under Andris Nelsons' baton was outstanding; the chorus and soloists were brilliant, with special praise for Christine Goerke (Ortrud) and Jennifer Davis (Elsa). How these ladies can act!
    David Alden's interpretation (lifting the story away from medieval constructs) is illuminating, especially the way he exposes the deeply flawed main characters, against Paul Steinberg's war-torn settings, but the Third Reich imagery is becoming a bit clichéd.
    The opera showcases a collection of villains, except for Elsa - the naïve, myopic victim, whose perfectly reasonable desire for a little bit of mutual trust and truth brings about her downfall.
    Klaus Florian Vogt's light tenor and fine acting convince as the sham hero Lohengrin, with a cheesy smile and trashy white suit, who is able to hypnotise the weak king and the mostly gullible and sycophantic plebeians (and even Telramund in the fake trial by combat), with his relentless sanctimonious patter. No sensible person would trust Lohengrin to organise a pub quiz, let alone lead an army (he wouldn't march far with those bare feet!) or run a country.
    How he manages to to marry starry-eyed Elsa without having to give his (or any) name is not explained, but he goes through the motions, intending anyway to dump her at the end of a year and swan off back to his nicer home, perhaps leaving he pregnant or with a child. How that would have played out for Elsa, and any child, within the strictures of a patriarchal society - when the father can't ever be identified, doesn't bear thinking about.

  5. Rudi Pham responded on 9 June 2018 at 3:32pm Reply

    Master A Nelsons sublissime finesse all the way.....
    J Davis coveing for Opolais was great . sadly .F Voigt Goerke bumpy perf desapointing....
    missed J.Kaufmann seen at Paris bastille last nov.. for me the star was Andris Nelsons J.Davis, fab chorus...... ......

  6. Jonathan Orr Ewing responded on 9 June 2018 at 5:59pm Reply

    It was a wonderful evening and flew, oh dear, by.
    Exceptional conducting by Andris Nelsons. The principals were very good and are bound to get better after the first night.
    Set and costume design odd and laboured but who cares with such glorious music?!!! One gets used to bizarre sets (this one was girders and stone. I thought the swan was going to haul the Titanic at one point as it was on a slope) and a mismatch of costumes which, in such a long opera, become a diverting irritation. Telramund wanders around with an orange smear on his forehead. I thought he’d wiped his brow on a bit of wet scenery paint but I think it’s where Lohengrin smote him.
    Lohengrin was barefoot in a grubby white linen suit except when he turned up for his nuptials in a double breasted mac with gumboots. A rather recherché wedding outfit when Elsa was wearing a conventional wedding dress. No wonder she insisted on finding out who the hell he was!
    The chorus’ costumes were good. There were red and white striped banners with a black swan motif in the last act; a rather gauche 3rd Reich reference I suppose Anyway one forgives this silliness of “designers” widdling on the gateposts for the sheer beauty of the music.
    Re mobiles. Tell people to put them in airplane mode. That stops the humming vibration.

    • Rog responded on 13 June 2018 at 10:29am

      Re mobiles - the announcements actually tell people to switch them off. The trouble is that people ignore them and think 'silent' mode is ok (apart from those who don't even manage to do that).

  7. Michael von Forstner responded on 10 June 2018 at 9:29pm Reply

    Klaus Florian Vogt was definitely the best Lohengrin I have heard in over 30 years since my first exposure to that wonderful opera, Jennifer Davis excelled as Elsa. The choir was very good, Andris Nelsons and the ROH Orchestra impressively demonstrated that Wagner doesn‘t necessarily have to be played at contant fortissimo. Unfortunately, the staging did not live up to the standards of the rest of the production, in particular in Act III. Nevertheless an evening to remember and as i walked back to my hotel and even two days later, „Nie sollst du mich befragen“ and „Es heisst Der Gral“ were still in my mind.

  8. Robert Hitchings responded on 11 June 2018 at 12:33am Reply

    A wonderful performance. The lead singers were excellent and full marks especially to Jennifer Davis. The icing on the cake was the performances of the chorus and orchestra under the superb Andris Nelsons.

    A super night. Congratulations to all at the ROH.

  9. David Djanogly responded on 11 June 2018 at 11:05am Reply

    The Orchestra, the Chorus, The voices of every main Cast, all magnificently and magicaly brought together
    under the baton of The Maestro !
    Simply “HEAVENLY” !
    I only wished my my seat was turned round,
    so that I did NOT have to be punished by watching the idiotic NONSENSE & STUPIDITY on the stage.
    Well done once again ROYAL OPERA HOUSE, for yet again allowing people to direct Opera, for which they have NO respect for “Opera or the Audience” !
    David Djanogly.

  10. Chris Brown responded on 11 June 2018 at 3:04pm Reply

    A great performance all round - the quality of the singing was uniformly excellent and the orchestra were outstanding. I was OK with the production - the semi-Nazi theme wasn't overworked, the swan banners were a good idea and the Albert Speer architecture for the Cathedral was fine, and the bedroom scene was brilliantly realised. The one thing I'm not sure about is the portrayal of the King as a neurotic weakling - this isn't in the text (or in history for that matter) and I'd like to read Alden's account of why he saw the role in that way. (As usual, the programme had generic notes on the opera rather than an account of this production).

    Overall, a triumph, to follow the brilliant Carmen an a rather disappointing Scenes of Love and Violence.

  11. Paul Murray responded on 11 June 2018 at 5:24pm Reply

    A fabulous evening. From the first shimmering bars of the prelude, I could tell we were in safe hands with Nelsons. The singing was generally excellent - the chorus was better than I have ever heard it and a star is born with Jennifer Davis. Very occasionally I go to an event and find myself wondering if there is any live art performance in the world that day better than what I'm actually watching. Last night at the Royal Opera House was one of those rare occasions.

  12. Ann O'Shaughnessy responded on 12 June 2018 at 1:09pm Reply

    Delighted to admit that my fears for this production were unfounded. Both principals and chorus were wonderful and, supported by the ROH orchestra under Anders Nelsons, delivered near perfection. Among a cast of seasoned Wagner specialists, Jennifer Davis held her own and looks like a star in the making. I could go on about the Nazi undertones but that would be unfair in this case as I thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance.

  13. Martin Russ responded on 14 June 2018 at 1:28pm Reply

    A wonderfully enjoyable evening of music and performance. The staging/production was thought-provoking - in retrospect - though at times it was fighting the libretto, which is uncomfortable - but this unheroic view of Lohengrin echoes contemporary distrust of traditional authority, whether religious or political, so I can see the point. It did not detract from the music which was quite simply glorious.

  14. Can't add to the comments above, but truly disappointed by the number of audience members who left while the applause etc was still going on. RoH audience getting more like the Met every day!

    • Mark Gilbert responded on 18 June 2018 at 8:44pm

      Some people don't like the crush, particularly if they have mobility problems. However, I usually leave during the applause because normally I have a train to catch.

  15. William responded on 16 June 2018 at 1:29pm Reply

    A wonderful evening musically (except for the usual cut in Act 3, which seems strange seeing that it was covered in the synopsis in the programme and only takes an extra 4 minutes in an evening of more than 4 and a half hours). The Orchestra and soloists were all superb. Congratulations to Jennifer Davis for stepping up to the mark, and having sung the most moving Elsa that I can remember since Elisabeth Grummer in 1962 at the visit of the Hamburg opera to the old Sadlers Wells theatre. Klaus Florian Vogt sounds much better live than on recordings. Well done to Thomas Mayer for carrying on when not feeling well. If an announcement had not been made no one would have known about it. The production was passable (far better than last year's disastrous Meistersinger), However, can someone explain why Christine Goerke as Ortrud was asked to carry round a black attache case for all of Act 1 and the beginning of Act 2. It made her look like a very junior official from HMRC, which has no bearing on the story of the opera however one looks at it. Another case of a director putting unnecessary gloss on a work of genius. However I do not wish to end on a negative note. This was a superb performance of a magnificent opera, which has been out of the repertory for too long.

  16. William responded on 17 June 2018 at 6:29pm Reply

    I saw Lohengrin on Wednesday evening, and musically it was a magnificent evening (with the exception of the unnecessary standard cut in Act 3,which is just 4 minutes out of an evening which runs for 4 and a half hours and despite the synopsis in the programme referring to the action at this point).
    Many congratulations to the conductor, orchestra and all the singers, especially Jennifer Davis, who rose to the challenge of Elsa superbly and will be surely be a star name to watch in the future. Also well done to Thomas Mayer who carried on in Act 2, despite having asked for the audiences' indulgence because he did not feel at his best. Klaus Florian Vogt is an acquired taste but he does sound much better live, than on recordings or on the radio, which is how I have only heard him up to now.
    The production was just passable, and certainly not as disastrous as last year's Meistersinger. I would be interested to know why Ortrud was directed to carry a black attache case for all of Act 1 and for part of Act 2, which made her look like a very junior clerk at HMRC, and which is certainly not intended in the libretto. Another director's personal gloss I suppose.
    However I must end on a positive note because overall this was a magnificent performance of a very great opera.

  17. Mark responded on 17 June 2018 at 7:57pm Reply

    First of all re mobiles - people should either turn them off competely, airplane mode or if your phone has a do not disturb mode (so doesn't vibrate either).

    I'll put my hands up, though I can't remember making a comment to the replacement of Kirsten, I was surprised by the choice of Jennifer as the replacement. I can say I was a doubting Thomas and she was absolutely superb. I hope her career flourishes after what I heard tonight.

    The production was ok, lighting was a bit dull at the start; I did think there was Nazi overtones, and I heard someone say during the interval that she is dressed like a female Nazi (I presume she was referring to Ortrud.

    Orchestra, conducting and the chorus - as usual for ROH - brilliant.

  18. James Gordon responded on 17 June 2018 at 9:13pm Reply

    Afraid I dissent from most above the above comments. I find Nelsons a frustrating conductor in opera. Rather like Rattle, he coaxes a constant stream of gorgeous sound from everyone, but no sense of drama and no otherworldliness. He took the prelude as if he was rushing for the last swan home. The ugly staging and costumes (Weimar Germany??) and substitution of stale technology for the supernatural didn't help either and by the end of the first act I was thoroughly disappointed.

    Then Christine Goerke jerked some life into it, as only Ortruds can, and the others seemed to respond, conductor included. It's the sets that get in the way, not the individual direction, so the barer stage in Act 3 was a plus. The long Elsa-Lohengrin scene especially worked well and Vogt sang the narration wonderfully, but even he couldn't conjure the Grail Kingdom single-handed from this materialistic staging.No wonder Gottfried looked bemused when he woke up.

    Die Meistersinger ohne Nuernberg works - background can be shed. Die Meistersinger ohne Die Meistersinger doesn't work, as we saw last year, and neither does Lohengrin ohne Lohengrin. All that's left is the Drang nach Osten, which maybe is the point the director wants to make.

  19. David Booth responded on 18 June 2018 at 5:50pm Reply

    Wonderful production musically. Awful set and stage direction -- a serious distraction from the music at times! Why do directors think they are entitled to "improve" on authors' settings? Audiences generally hate it because it breaks the essential links between the music, the text and the story implied by the text. Even if one were to accept some re-location to a completely different period of history, one would shudder at some of Alden's devices: what accused person in any court is allowed to crawl around on the floor, as Elsa does in Act 1. What king, even if nervous about his military prospects, also crawls around on the floor and make a big show of looking pathetic, as the King of Germany is made to do? Bizarre. This kind of directorial pretentiousness is a good way of destroying opera. I wonder what the singers think.

    I hope very much that the Ring is not messed up in this way later this year!!

  20. David Booth responded on 18 June 2018 at 5:54pm Reply

    I forgot to say that opera should be good to look at too. This was painful to look at. IK don't mean chocolate box stuff, but why so much black clothing and dim lighting?

  21. John R responded on 20 June 2018 at 11:37am Reply

    Musically, I thought the performance was outstanding - from the ethereal shimmering of the strings in the prelude which was spine-tingling to the close of the performance four and a half-hours later! Orchestra and chorus were superb, as were the principal singers, and I thought that Jennifer Davis sang and acted the role of Elsa with distinction. I didn't "mind" the production, perhaps because I had such low expectations of what we would see on the stage - and it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. I'm sorry there isn't a screening of this performance, because I think that particularly the performances of Davis, Voigt, Goerke and Zeppenfield and also Nelson's conducting should be caught for posterity.

  22. Agnes Gaillard responded on 23 June 2018 at 8:03pm Reply

    Agreeing with most people here. The music, voices, acting were all truly outstanding and beautiful. Mesmerisingly so. Jennifer Davis in my opinion was the highlight. A true, honest, enthusiastic performance like I love and miss them, they are too rare! The staging however I did not like too much, the modern setting and nazi undertones (which I think are unwelcome especially in a Wagner opera), the over acting of Elsa ramping in the first Act, the odd video effect to minicate the Swan. ..

  23. peterstephen responded on 24 June 2018 at 3:20am Reply

    Performance on Saturday June 22nd 2018. I'll never understand how productions like this get past the committee stage. It's as if David Alden decided deliberately to annoy and distract with those house of mirrors buildings and Nazi storm trooper costumes. Meanwhile the singers and orchestra delivered an oustanding evening of music of the highest order. Special mention too for Christine Goerke whose voice filled the ROH.

  24. Graham Thomas responded on 24 June 2018 at 10:35am Reply

    Superb evening all round. I wasn’t bothered by the production - melted into the background in the face is such fantastic singing and playing. The atmosphere was electric in the auditorium! Special mention for Christine Goerke - never seen anyone embody a part with such energy and ferocity - her Ortrud was a real force of nature - amazing acting and vocal skills borne out by the audience reception at the curtain call. The devil really does get the best tunes!

  25. Jonathan Mitchell responded on 24 June 2018 at 12:06pm Reply

    The production left me an emotional wreck. The 2nd Act in particular was brilliantly done. I felt as if I had been kicked in the guts at the end of it.

    I do not understand what the griping about the set is about. It worked and the cast did not have to fight against it, as can often happen when designers get out of control. The symbolism was a bit obvious, but, I thought, well thought through and executed. It was different; that's all. It symbolised a decaying kingdom well.

    However, the power of the music and singing was such that the set became almost incidental. Georke as Ortrud was brilliant.

    Superb performance.

  26. Andrew Farran responded on 25 June 2018 at 2:21pm Reply

    Thoroughly enjoyed thoroughout. I liked the setting - imaginative and eye catching. Singing excellent all round. Another impressive achievement by ROH, to reward an Australian visitor.

  27. Marie Paton responded on 25 June 2018 at 7:06pm Reply

    I first saw Lohengrin at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968 directed by Wagner's nephew. This production is likely to be my last Lohengrin. It is the best sung and the most dramatic performance I have ever attended. Pity about the costumes (bought from charity shops?) and the set ( from scrapyards?. They had little to do with the story and just made some of the action seem incongruous. Lack of imagination?

  28. MICHAEL JAMES CHISHOLM responded on 29 June 2018 at 12:10am Reply


  29. Chris Brown responded on 1 July 2018 at 3:27pm Reply

    Great singing all round, orchestra were superb, production broadly OK though I didn’t understand why Henry the Fowler was portrayed as a neurotic loser (but was sung brilliantly).

  30. Andrew responded on 1 July 2018 at 10:22pm Reply

    Marvellous! Especially the first act. Absolutely thrilling. I think the performers knew how much today's audience (1/7/18) were enjoying it and we certainly left them in no doubt at the end. The set and the whole design concept didn't quite work (the chorus's stahlhelms in the final act were mystifying), but it didn't interfere with the music. After being told a few times Lohengrin was "lesser" than the rest of RW's oeuvre, I know now for a fact it isn't and I shall treasure forever the first time I saw it (today).

  31. Stephen Ratcliffe responded on 2 July 2018 at 7:36am Reply

    Caught the last night. Exceptional performance and I eat my words about Jennifer Davis. She really pulled it off. Chorus and orchestra brilliant. Lovely to see the orchestra applauding Nelson.

  32. Juliet Chaplin responded on 2 July 2018 at 4:49pm Reply

    Wonderful musically. Pity about the ugly, inappropriate "Eurotrash" production, and about Chris Walton's article in the programme; he seems to have missed a lot of points. Has he read Ernest Newman on the opera? But, to be positive, terrific cast, chorus and orchestra. Jennifer Davis should certainly have a great future. Christine Georke is always a star. The men were impressive too. "Lohengrin" is a great work which I have loved for decades and it was great to hear a performance which was musically to excellent.

  33. Malcolm responded on 2 July 2018 at 7:28pm Reply

    Had misgivings about Opolais anyway but ultimately grateful she stood aside to allow us the debut of Jennifer Davis ( a star in the making)
    Musically one of best Wagner nights I can remember

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