“Lohengrin” for children is a thriller with time to listen

Blukewarm, of course, what else. Milk blue, night blue, violet blue, bluish blue, blue, as blue as the gentian is the stage design by Zoe Leutnant for the children’s “Lohengrin” at the Bayreuth Festival. After all, Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy’s stage for the now adult “Lohengrin” is also completely blue, just like Lohengrin, the knight in blue, and like the prelude to Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin”, which was once written that you could hear an opalescent blue in it.

The stage set for children is a roofscape of neo-baroque gables, windows, doors, chimneys and a greenhouse in which Ortrud – Stéphanie Müther with a smock apron and Monica Lewinsky’s puffy hair like an anteater tail – waters her gherkins. But she’s just pretending, Ortrud. It is not harmless. Of that later.

An old hit, but not by Wagner

First of all: “The night is blue and the moon is in the sky, look where he laughs.” It’s an old hit, but not by Wagner. Only Elsa and Gottfried are actually standing on the roof, while the orchestra, conducted by Azis Sadiković, let the prelude float blue through the hall on stage 4 and look at the moon. Until the drum beats. bang! – Gottfried is gone. A gnatzy, writhing, scolding swan lights up on the wall of the house like a cartoon projection. The children on the seat steps pat each other on the back, point to the swan and laugh squirrelly on their stomachs.

The small actor Manni Laudenbach as an investigator called “Heerrufer” and Oleksandr Pushniak as a commissioner called “Kong Heinrich” (“Heinrich König” would probably also work) clarify the situation for the children: “Something happened here in Brabant: Gottfried is gone. ! Fortunately we are both detectives. We must find Gottfried again.” In the costumes by Christiaan Harris, the two look a bit like the captain from Köpenick.

The young director Lea Willeke and her dramaturg Marlene Schleicher tell “Lohengrin” as a children’s crime, coordinated with the artistic director Katharina Wagner and the musical arranger Marko Zdralek. Daniel Kirch as Lohengrin speaks directly to his audience and asks if they will not betray him; no one must know who he is and where he comes from. When a fighter for Elsa is sought in the trial, Manni Laudenbach asks if there is anyone in the room who would fight Telramund in a boxing match. Yes, of course, many! No boy will let you sit down, this question. “Okay, not now, I promise you, we will fight together after the show.” Instead, Lohengrin makes things clear.

Behind glass: Scene from the children's opera


Behind glass: Scene from the children’s opera “Lohengrin”.
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Image: Emilie Mayer

But in addition to what children want to see, there is also what they need to hear: Richard Wagner’s music and his special language. The prelude, which is one of the most beautiful things Wagner ever dreamed up, is a little shortened. Brit-Tone Müllertz sings Elsa’s dream with a magical, silvery timbre, Daniel Kirch as Lohengrin, strong and gentle at the same time, piercingly clear, recites the shortened Grail story under interrogation. And Michael Kupfer-Radecky as the chimney sweep Telramund, singing darkly, accuses the six to ten-year-olds of words like “boy”, “pearl” and “walking around” until he explodes: “I accuse her of fratricide,” namely Elsa , the now stuck.

Willeke and Schleicher have perfectly balanced the need for concentration and the need to let loose a laugh. Even adults can’t help but laugh when Lohengrin sits on the couch in the bridal chamber in front of the trunk TV, munching on popcorn while Elsa asks him, “What shall I call you now? Sucker? Little darling?”

The two do not become a couple, as in real life, with Wagner. But Ortrud is arrested as an evil sorceress and must transform the swan back into Gottfried. After the final chord, the arch-comedian (as Ortrud you can say that about) Stéphanie Müther simply breaks out. Manni Laudenbach catches her: “Ortrud, stay here! Bend over!”

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