Tannhäuser

 

Wagner Tannhäuser opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2008 by Robert Carsen at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Stars Peter Seiffert (Tannhäuser), Markus Eiche (Wolfram von Echenbach), Petra Maria Schnitzer (Elizabeth), Béatrice Uria-Monzon (Venus), Günther Groissböck (Hermann, Landgraf von Thüringen), Vicente Ombuena (Walter von der Vogelweide), Lauri Vasar (Biterolf), Francisco Vas (Heinrich der Schreiber), Johann Tilli (Reinmar von Zweter),  Eliana Bayón (Young Shepherd), Maria Such, M. Àngels Padro, Yordanka León, and Miglena Savora (Nobel Pages). Sebastian Weigle conducts the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu and the Chorus Intermezzo (Chorus Master José Luis Basso). Set design by Paul Steinberg; costume design by Constance Hoffman; lighting design by Robert Carsen and Peter van Praet; choreography by Philippe Giraudeau. Directed for TV by Xavi Bové. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B-

The Carsen show is updated to mid-20th century. It also has an extensive overlay in that the artists in the story are not singers, but fine-art painters. The Carsen take also has a triple surprise ending, about which we will say little further.

The Liceu singers are excellent, but Liceu orchestra less so. The Liceu picture quality, picture content, and sound quality are fine.

Carsen in his Venusberg Bacchanal provides 15 gorgeous (and tasteful) minutes of the best female nude to appear maybe in any opera recording ever. If this is a story about modern painters, wouldn't Venus be a nude model? Alas, the girl who worked here as body double for Béatrice Uria-Monzo (the singing Venus) gets no credit. (Poor Dear Girl, if you will send me your name, I'll give you credit here.)

Now I get the scene at Venusville OK, but after that, it gets harder and harder to understand what is going on with Carsen's updating and overlay.  Wagner's libretto is loaded with stuff about singers, knights, sword fighting, and the like which drag down a modern take. For example, it's a bit hard to swallow the part where the owner of an art gallery in 1950 promises to award his niece to the guy who turns in the best painting (there were no lady artists in the contest). In the real Tannhäuser, people die; Carsen, however, has a happy ending! 

If you are having trouble following the  previous paragraphs, then you will get my point: this Carsen production was done for elite Wagner experts who already know Tannhäuser well and can enjoy all the director's clever twists. You would do well not to show this Tannhäuser to a newbie. I started to give this the grade of C+, but in honor of the body double and out of respect for Béatrice Uria-Monzon's suntan, I'll bump the grade to a B-. For jaded fans of contemporary opera, the grade should probably be a bit higher.

PS: Well, we never heard from the body double. Probably she's not an opera fan. But there's always hope.

Alas, no decent video found for this --- everything is in pitiful SD.