Live performances are often things that can be very hit and miss. In this case, Wolfgang Sawallisch's 1962 performance of Lohengrin from the Bayreuth Festival is definitely a hit. I got this performance as part of the Wagner: Great Operas from The Bayreuth Festival box, which I just can't say enough good things about. Anyway, this is a performance not to be missed.
Firstly, the musicians are great. Anja Silja was all of 22 years old when she made this recording, but she sounds incredible. She is also extremely good at conveying a wide range of emotions, which is a testament to her skills as an actress. James King is an incredible, otherworldly Lohengrin. He is even more alive here than in the Kempe recording. Astrid Varnay and Ramon Vinay however absolutely steal the show in this set. Varnay is the embodiment of evil as Ortrud, and she helps to make the second act absolutely delightful. Ramon Vinay is a not-so-submissive Telramund, and he sings very well. Franz Crass is a fine King Heinrich, and the Bayreuth Chorus is in find sound here, making the whole opera a veritable sound-feast. The orchestra is also very good, and the brass in particular shine.
Sound quality is never a problem here. The Bayreuth acoustic is captured very well and it all sounds very natural. Of course, there are some audience noises but never is it great enough to take away from the experience.
I would recommend this recording to those interested in a good live performance in a heartbeat. Although the conditions are not as secure such as in a studio version, this recording has a crackle of excitement that is necessary for a good performance of Wagner.