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I was astonished (not in a negative way, say) by the absence of a swan in this 1976 August Everding Lohengrin production at the Metropolitan Opera. I thought a swan was compulsory at that address... at least in the pre-Robert Wilson era. Instead the light simply disappears in the corner of the sets, which are predictably traditional and dark, yet vastly superior to the Lohengrin sets at the Vienna State Opera.
Peter Hofmann´s vocal decline was obvious in 1986 (he was diagnosed with Parkinson´s disease a few years later), especially when compared to his 1982 Bayreuth Lohengrin. He certainly looks the part, but quite simply does not sing it well.
Eva Marton was Ortrud in the earlier run of this production, a part better suited to her than Eva. She is frequently flat and not overly exciting, though her vocal decline (starting about 1990-91) had not set in yet. But she is certainly no match for Cheryl Studer on both the Vienna State Opera and Bayreuth Lohengrin DVDs.
No matter how intense Leonie Rysanek´s acting is as Ortrud, she simply does not have the voice for the part lacking the necessary weight in her middle and lower voice, though surprisingly often (for her!) on pitch. I am a major admirer of Leonie Rysanek, but Ortrud simply does not suit her. And even in intensity she is no match for Waltraud Meier.
Danish barytone Leif Roar, the first Telramund I heard more than twenty years ago in Copenhagen, is dramatically excellent in a part, where you may get away with snarling and literally screaming quite a few of the exposed high notes. Though I wouldn´t mind hearing a singer able to sing them at some point..
James Levine, rather to my surprise, is masterful with this score, both spacious as well as exciting and dynamic, when called for. The irrititating superficial smoothness of his readings of Wagner´s later works (Meistersinger, Tristan, The Ring and Parsifal) is simply not here, a rather positive surprise, in my opinion.
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Peter Hofmann: 4
Eva Marton: 3
Leonie Rysanek: 3
Leif Roar: 3
John Macurdy: 3
Everdings production: 3
James Levine: 4
Overall impression: 3