By Rosemary Hector
The work of the great Romantic German composer, poet, librettist, conductor and theatre director, Richard Wagner , a giant in the history of opera, was showcased at the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) in Oman recently to enthusiastic reviews from critics and, more importantly, audiences thrilled by the spectacle of Lohengrin, on stage at what has become the jewel in the sultanate’s cultural crown.
Wagner (1813-1883), is credited with revolutionising opera through his concept of Gesamtkunstwerk meaning “total work of art”, through which he sought to synthesize the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic aspects of opera as a fully integrated work of art, with the music subsidiary to drama.
Lohengrin was Wagner’s first internationally recognised masterpiece, a work which officially announced the arrival of a new operatic genius. The story of Lohengrin is based on medieval German romances. A noble knight, Lohengrin, comes in a swan-drawn boat to protect the fair lady, Elsa of Brabant, from the intrigues of an evil Count who is hoping to seize her family’s dukedom. But Lohengrin has one condition – Elsa must never ask the Knight’s name and his origin. The Knight and Elsa marry, but, alas, they are not destined to live happily ever after. The ending skilfully intertwines tragedy with renewal and hope.
Starring the brilliant Icelandic tenor, Jon Ketilsson as Lohengrin, and the radiant young soprano Astrid Weber as Elsa of Brabant, the opera is performed by the Richard Wagner Festival Wels, Austria with the critically acclaimed Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir under the baton of the renowned Austrian Conductor, Ralf Weikert.
Jon Ketilsson is a singer for all seasons. He is as adept and impressive in the operas of Wagner as he is in the works of Verdi and Puccini, Bizet and Mozart. It was in the starring role of Alfredo in La Traviata that Jon Ketilsson made his debut – at the prestigious Prague State Opera in 1993. In addition to Lohengrin, Ketilsson’s Wagner repertoire includes the demanding title roles in Tannhäuser, Parsifal, Rienzi, and Tristan & Isolde, as well as the lead role of Erik in The Flying Dutchman. Among the many famous roles Ketilsson has mastered in Italian opera are Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Radamès in Verdi’s Aida, Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohéme, and Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth.
Along with singing and dancing, soprano Astrid Weber has a background in the study of Romance languages and literature. In opera, she began with the works of Wagner and Elsa of Brabant was one of the first roles she mastered. Weber debuted successfully as Elsa at In direct connection to the Bayreuth Festival, I had the role of Senta in ” The Flying Dutchman” under direction of Thorsten Fischer in Klagenfurt. the Bayreuth Festival in 2011. Among the many highlights in her career are performing in Wagner’s complete Ring cycles On the same stage I also sang Sieglinde and Gutrune in complete ring cycles, as I did in a successful guest performance at the Opera House in Shanghai.at the Opera House in Shanghai and celebrating the On the occasion of the 200th Wagner anniversary in 2013 I performed as Elizabeth in “Tannhäuser” at the Wagner Festival in Wels.200th anniversary of Wagner’s death in a performance as Elizabeth in Tannhäuser at the Wagner Festival in WelsLater I sang in the roles of Elisabeth and Venus in Chemnitz,additionally in the autumn I performed again at the Wartburg. in 2013. One of Weber’s most recent performances of Elsa was in the autumn of 2015 at the famous ‘fairytale’ Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, a nineteenth-century revival of a Romanesque palace.
From November, I was heard in the Amsterdam Ring production as 3rd Norn and Gutrune.The distinguished Austrian conductor, Maestro Ralf Weikert won important honours early on in his career, including First Prize at the 1965 Nicolai Malko Competition in Copenhagen, soon followed by the Mozart Interpretation Prize awarded by the Austrian Minister of Culture. In 1975 the great conductor Karl Böhm presented Weikert with the Karl Böhm Award. Weikert’s impressive string of debuts started in 1974 with the Vienna State Opera, followed by numerous successful engagements at prestigious venues including New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the Salzburg Festival. Along with performing in all of Europe’s important music venues, Maestro Weikert has conducted operas and concerts in the USA, South America, China, Japan and Korea. His accomplishments include notable recordings such as Rossini’s Barber of Seville which won the 2005 Echo Classic Award.
Muscat audiences can expect the very best with Maestro Weikert’s interpretation of Lohengrin, as Weikert is well-experienced in the works of Wagner, having served from 2004 to 2015 as Music Director of the Wagner Festival, where he conducted Lohengrin, Parsifal, Tristan and Isolde, The Flying Dutchman, and Tannhäuser.
Wagner’s opera, Lohengrin, played the ROHM on 20 and 22 October