Following the semi-concertante performances of Lohengrin in the Concertgebouw on 18 and 20 December (for a review see here) we will reveal the winner of our Lohengrin-contest. A battle between the old and the new. Lauritz Melchior (the Heroic) vs Klaus Florian Vogt (the Angelic). And the outcome may surprise some people ...
Because it was the Lohengrin of Klaus Florian Vogt who prevailed with 54% of the votes over Lauritz Melchior (who got, subsequently, 46%).
For me polls are often a nice excuse - thinking about the entry I will give - to go over those recordings again (both recent and old) and perhaps put those live performances I've attended into (new) perspective.
It was not a question about who had/has the bigger career; Melchior or Vogt. The legend of Melchior was/is undisputed. It was about the search for the ideal Lohengrin. The poll was a result of my contemplations about contenders, initially who are still alive, who could give Klaus Florian Vogt a run for his money as Knight of the Swan. And that list was pretty short.
Last year I heard Nikolai Schukoff for De Nationale Opera in this role and how much I loved this Lohengrin production as a whole, it didn't deliver a serious contender for best Lohengrin of this generation. I have a DVD with Placido Domingo singing Lohengrin (under Abbado). It’s beautiful but I doubt if he can pull off the role on stage nowaydays. And then there is of course Jonas Kaufman.
But, long story short, a contest between two singers from different generations looked the most interesting.
It was a DVD with a production from the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden that introduced me to Klaus Florian Vogt. A voice that I had to get used to. His tenor seemed too light in comparison with the voices of Jess Thomas and Sandor Konya I knew. That was 10 years ago. But Vogt’s voice lived up to its full potential since. It matured and gained in emotional impact and the role of Lohengrin must be like a second skin to him now. He must be able to sing the role in his sleep. Vogt is a voice especially for Lohengrin (and Parsifal). I don’t hear in him Tristan or Siegfried. And he changed my perception how I hear the role now (so in this poll I would have given him the nod). And how much I like Jonas Kaufman, his voice lacks the angelic element that Vogt so inseparably linked to this role.
For the other contender I went back in time. He is on one of those rare recordings I consider perfect: the first act of Die Walkure under the baton of Bruno Walter with Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde (see here). His career in Wagner has mammoth dimensions. His Siegmund, Tristan and Siegfried are legendary. I didn't know about his Lohengrin to be honest but some web searching convinced me pretty soon that he would be more than an adequate rival for Vogt. With Lauritz Melchior it would become a clash, not only between generations but also between styles; the Heroic vs the Angelic.
Once the poll started Melchior got a headstart. But on the second day of the poll Vogt came by. Perhaps there were a lot of people who attended his performance in Amsterdam that came in casting their vote. As beautiful as Vogt's rendition in the video is, it is incomparable with his live performance (we will never have the opportunity to hear Melchior live so this poll wasn't exactly a level playing field).
It stayed close to the very end but the voice of Lohengrin Present prevailed over the legendary Wagner singer of the Past.
May they both keep enlighten our ears and redeem our souls with their voices. Cheers!
Klaus Florian Vogt prevailed with 54% of the vote