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Germany

Standing Ovations for German Tenor

German tenor Peter Seiffert received standing ovations for his interpretation of the title role in Richard Wagner's romantic opera, "Lohengrin", on the second night of the prestigious Bayreuth Festival on Tuesday. In a revival of US director Keith Warner's spectacularly cinematic staging of the opera, last seen on Bayreuth's Green Hill in 2003, the cast headed by Seiffert was rapturously received. But when Seiffert took his curtain call, the audience got to its feet, applauding and cheering wildly for his stunning performance as the mysterious knight. Seiffert's clarion-clear "Heldentenor" certainly stood out in a generally mixed performance by the rest of the cast. His real-life partner, soprano Petra-Maria Schnitzer, sounded shrill and forced as Elsa in Act I, and similarly failed to convince in the subsequent two acts as well, with her thin, one-dimensional singing and acting. US soprano Linda Watson, tipped to be Bruennhilde in next year's new staging of Wagner's massive four-part "Ring" cycle in Bayreuth, sang the role of the wicked power-hungry Ortrud with an unpleasant wobble. The other three main male roles -- King Heinrich (Reinhard Hagen), Telramund (Hartmut Welker) and the Heerrufer (Roman Trekel) -- all appeared to be having an off-night, struggling with both tone and intonation. In the pit, German conductor Peter Schneider offered only a solid, unspectacular reading of what is one of Wagner's most magical scores, while on stage, the excellent festival chorus proved to be the real star of the show, always alert and expressive. Keith Warner's impressive staging has lost none of its magic, thanks to Stefanos Lazaridis' visually striking sets and Ulrich Niepel's poetic lighting. And the evening provided an interesting counterfoil to the anti-aesthetic of Christoph Marthaler's cold and clinical "Tristan und Isolde" that opened the 94th edition of the Richard Wagner Festspiele on Monday.

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