Before purchasing this video, I had the benefit of reading a favorable review in Opera News, which prepared me for the shock of seeing Lohengrin set in a classroom with all the players cast as children. It is absolutely absurd...but it works! All the boys, including the king with a paper crown, wear short pants and knee socks; all the girls, simple skirts and blouses with socks and little girl shoes.
Elsa, sung and acted beautifully by Emily Magee, is hiding in the classroom cupboard. She finally comes forward to face the king after Telramund, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen, has accused her of drowning her brother Gottfried, the Duke of Brabant. Telramund has been put up to this by his wife Ortrud, played by Luana DeVol. Elsa requests a champion to fight for her and lo and behold, the handsome stranger, John Treleaven, shows up, arising from the floor, piloted by a beautiful swan who is actually Gottfried.
In the classroom, all the children are rowdy throwing spitballs and paper missiles. Ortrud, dressed in black with red hair in pigtails, sings her lines while making nasty witch faces, pushing and shoving and being the manipulative, "mean" girl. The blonde Elsa, wearing white, is the picture of innocence and naivety.
As I said, the setting is ridiculous. You are watching adults, dressed as children and behaving like children. The king is wearing short pants. Telramund and Ortrud, depicted as children, are nevertheless married. The boys are all waving wooden swords, prepared to go to war for Germany. But, as the action proceeds and the story unfolds, the absurdity of the setting starts to fade away. And you find yourself just watching the fairy tale. At least, I did.
All the characters sang well and the music conducted by Sebastian Weigle was first rate. Emily Magee displayed Elsa's fear, innocence, doubt, guilt and remorse perfectly. Luana DeVol excelled as the mean, nasty, evil Ortrud. John Treleaven was a believable Lohengrin who got better and better.
I've seen a traditional production of Lohengrin; the one with Peter Hoffman and Eva Marton. This one was definitely more fun and visually more interesting. The director, Peter Konwitschny, gets the stars, too. But, I think Wagner, the control freak, would be rolling in his grave over it.