Tannhäuser

 

Wagner Tannhäuser opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2008 by Nikolaus Lehnhoff at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Stars Robert Gambill (Tannhäuser), Camilla Nylund (Elisabeth), Waltraud Meier (Venus), Stephen Milling (Hermann, Landgraf von Thüringen), Roman Trekel (Wolfram von Eschenbach), Marcel Reijans (Walther von der Vogelweide), Tom Fox (Biterolf), Andreas Hörl (Reimer von Zweter), Florian Hoffmann (Heinrich der Schreiber), Katherina Müller (Young Shepherd), Claudia Chmelar, Anna-Katina Tilch, Manuela Leonhartsberger, Martina König (Nobel Pages), and Reinier van der Eng (Spirit of Tannhäuser). Dancers are Fabienne Boekel, Jasper Dzuki Jelen, Namiko Gahier, Carolina D'Haese, Esther Jager, Leena Keizer, Andrea Mitschke, Maroussia van der Moezel, Anna Pons Carrera, Sophy Ribrault, Lilou Robert, Satya Roosens, Shahla Tarrant, Susana Garcia Valverde, James-John van der Velden, and Pim Veulings. Philippe Jordan conducts the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Philharmonia Chor Wien (Chorus Master Walter Zeh). Sets by Raimund Bauer; costumes by Andrea Schmidt-Futterer; lighting by Duane Schuler; ballet choreography by Amir Hosseinpour and Jonathan Lunn; choir choreography by Denni Sayers; dramaturgy by Klaus Bertisch and Wolfgang Willaschek. Directed for TV by Patrick Buttman; produced by Torsten Bönnhoff and Erwin Stürzer. Released  2009, disc has 7.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  Grade: B+

All the principal stars sing and act well, especially Camilla Nylund as Elizabeth. Robert Gambill is outstanding in the contest scene when he loses control and starts a riot. We also single out Roman Trekel for his moving portrayal of the transforming impact that Elizabeth's prayers have on the once bitter character of Wolfram von Eschenbach. His acting skill undergirds his "O du mein holder Abendstern" in a way that makes it clear why these few bars are an icon of opera music. The orchestra and chorus perform well for Philippe Jordan and the recording is close and warm. Picture quality, video content, and sound quality are fine.

This show has eclectic sets and costumes suggesting many historical periods (even science fiction). You know this is happening in the middle ages when miracles still happened. But it's a bit disconcerting when the singing contestants get a microphone just like the one Frank Sinatra used to like. And Richard Wagner would probably have been quite puzzled by the "cocoon" dance characters at the Venusberg orgy. Never mind the design oddities.  Thanks to sensitive and intelligent acting directed by Nikolaus Lehndoff, this production turns out to be straight-forward, traditional telling of Wagner's Tannhäuser story.  With a synopsis at hand, most newcomers to this will probably find this version relatively easy to follow.  Still, we offer a clue as to what this opera is about: Wagner abandons the ideal of the ancient classical hero achieving apotheosis in favor of the late-romantic concept of the anti-hero who careens erratically between orgiastic orgasm and heaven-send redemption while sinking in a self-induced and inevitable death spiral. (Wagner is never easy.)

P.S. The artwork for this disc package is astonishingly ugly. This book is better than it's cover. There's no good YT clip for this older title.