LOHENGRIN OF THE SILVER LEG
We get very little Wagner in San Diego, so we could not resist getting tickets for Los Angeles Opera's Lohengrin, which opened Saturday night with Ben Heppner in the title role and the great Verdi mezzo Dolora Zajick, making her Wagnerian debut as Ortrud. (Dolora Zajick appeared in San Diego in 1988 as Azucena in an otherwise disastrous Trovatore.).
Unfortunately, the production was a dud, a German style "concept production" directed by American Lydia Steier, that set Wagner's legendary medieval tale in a bombed-out church during World War I. Lohengrin is a fatally wounded soldier who rises from the dead and has acquired a silver lower right leg!. (I'm not making this up you know.) He first appears in a stained T-shirt and coat. No swan of course. The action plodded in the first act, got somewhat more interesting in the second and improved a bit in the third, but all-in-all-made no sense even if you accepted the concept. (I have liked some concept theater and opera productions; e.g., Coriolanus in a banana republic, the Sellars Don Giovanni set in Spanish Harlem).
The other major problem was Heppner's singing, beautiful one moment, cracking the next. It made me cringe, more in sorrow than anger. On the other hand, Dolora Zajick's powerful voice contributed to an overall good Ortrud and the rest of the cast was fine; however, only James Johnson, as Telramund, seemed to really try acting.
RECOMMENDATION: If you have not bought tickets yet, don't bother. See another Lohengrin someday. If you have already bought tickets, attend and try to concentrate on Wagner's music. I never tire of the Prelude to the Third Act despite having heard it a million times. Unfortunately, it sounded totally out of place in this production.