Iconic Productions: The Season of Lohengrin and Mass

“Wagner wanted nothing less than that [Lohengrin] exude, through music, the mystical sensation of being in the presence of the Holy Grail, as if it could pour out ‘exquisite odors, like streams of gold, ravishing the senses…[Maximilian] Schell’s production is grim and intelligent, with a strong dose of brutal realism bringing dramatic point to Wagner’s mythic drama..” –Mark Swed, classical music critic for the Los Angeles Times

<em>Lohengrin</em> (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

Lohengrin (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

LA Opera presented Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin in September 2001, a production directed by famed Hollywood actor/director, Maximilian Schell. Wagner’s last romantic opera, Lohengrin is set in the 10th century during the reign of King Henry. Elsa has been framed in the death of her brother, Gottfried, and needs a champion to protect her. Her champion, Lohengrin, appears on a swan and saves her from an awful fate. Yet, Elsa’s suspicions of Lohengrin grow throughout the opera and she wonders if the knight is trustworthy.

The following February, LA Opera presented a fully staged version of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor, directed and designed by versatile avant-gardist Achim Freyer. Mass in B Minor, which features well known musical excerpts including “Kyrie,” “Gloria,” and “Agnus Dei,” marked the U.S. debut for Freyer and his ensemble. He said of the work:

“There are works that have strongly influenced the existential and artistic consciousness. This is one of them…Great art, such as this piece, is characterized by human measurements and proportions, by allegorical architecture that connects body and soul.”

Mass in B Minor (2002); Photo: Ken Howard

Mass in B Minor (2002); Photo: Ken Howard

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