Tannhäuser (tenor) is sick of the sensual pleasures of the Venusberg and longs for the simple joys of earthly life. The love goddess Venus (soprano) summons a magic grotto and tempts him to... See full summary »





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Cast overview:
Hans Sotin ...
Herrmann, Landgraf von Thüringen
Richard Versalle ...
Wolfgang Brendel ...
Wolfram von Eschenbach
William Pell ...
Walter von der Vogelweide
Siegfried Vogel ...
Clemens Bieber ...
Heinrich der Schreiber
Sándor Sólyom-Nagy ...
Reinemar von Zweter
Cheryl Studer ...
Ruthild Engert-Ely ...


Tannhäuser (tenor) is sick of the sensual pleasures of the Venusberg and longs for the simple joys of earthly life. The love goddess Venus (soprano) summons a magic grotto and tempts him to surrender to ecstasy, but Tannhäuser invokes the Virgin Mary and Venus disappears. Hermann (bass), the Landgrave of Thuringia, and minstrels approach. Wolfram says that in their earlier song-contests, Tannhäuser won the love of Elisabeth (soprano), the Landgrave's niece. Going to the Hall of Song, Tannhäuser throws himself at Elisabeth's feet. They sing together of love. The Landgrave announces a new song contest; the winner will receive his prize from Elisabeth herself. Wolfram (baritone) sings first and uses the image of a fountain to sing of the purity of love. The audience enjoys his song, but Tannhäuser retorts that the fountain of love fills him only with burning desire. Another minstrel, Biterolf (bass), speaks on behalf of the outraged knights and ladies when he challenges Tannhäuser to a ... Written by Anonymous

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Music | Fantasy | Drama





Release Date:

September 1989 (West Germany)  »

Also Known As:

Tannhäuser oder Der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg  »

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User Reviews

Beautifully sung and well done production...
26 May 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Of Wagner's operas, Tannhauser is not my favourite(between Tristan and Meistersinger), but it is a very compelling opera dealing with mainly conflict between purity(of the soul) and desire(of the flesh) with such amazing music right from one of operas's finest overtures to the very end. Previous to this 1989 production, I saw three others, the 1982 Met production, which had its faults(I never warmed to Richard Cassily's voice in this performance) but I otherwise loved, the 1994 performance which had three good performances(Bernd Weikl, Nadine Seconde and especially Waltraud Meier) but had banal costumes, staging and sets and a past prime Rene Kollo, and the 1978 Bayreuth production, which is my favourite.

This Tannhauser is very good though. It does have its imperfections, the costumes didn't come across as very attractive to me and I did find the close up of Richard Versalle's hand in the Rome Narrative climax rather hammy. While I am not usually fussy about cuts, or at least I don't try to be, there will be people who will dislike the cuts in the Overture and Venusburg ballet. That said, there is much to like. The picture quality is crisp and clear, the sound is mostly wonderful(though there were a few instances where the remote to turn it up was needed) and apart from the close up I mentioned Brian Large's video directing is excellent with a nice mixture of close-up and full-stage.

Visually, this Tannhauser is nice and traditional-looking. No banality whatsoever, unlike the 1994 production. I did like Wolfgang Wagner's staging, it is not the most involving staging I have ever seen, but there are parts like in Act 3 that are compelling and movingly-done. Nothing is here to actually embarrass the principals really in a banal or irritating sense. Musically it is just as wonderful as Wagner's music itself. Giuseppe Sinopoli gives a musical and enigmatic reading, the tempos are slow but a number of scenes benefited from this such as a particularly nuanced rendition of Ode to the Evening Star and the third act prelude is the most convincing it's been of the four productions on DVD. The orchestral playing is both lush and powerful, and the chorus especially in the Pilgrim's Chorus are outstanding.

As for the principals, this is a really beautifully done production. Richard Versalle sings better than he acts and uses his body in all honesty. However vocally, he throws himself into the punishing role of Tannhauser, and while his timbre has a more metallic edge to it than a honeyed one the trumpet-like size of his voice is thrilling to listen to. Comparing to his other competitors on DVD, Vesalle is not as good as Spas Wenkoff for the 1978 performance but he is far preferable in my opinion to Cassily and Kollo and deserves a much fairer distinction than just being "the second person to die on stage at the Met". Cheryl Studer, like all three of her other DVD competitors(I am especially fond of Gwyneth Jones), is a truly touching Elisabeth. Her tone is beautiful and always heard, her Dich, Teure Halle is exciting and she and Versalle(stepping in for Kollo and Gabriella Benackova) sound good together in Act 2.

Wolfgang Brendel is a sympathetic Wolfram, vocally and dramatically. I do prefer Bernd Weikl in the role but only just, Brendel's rendition of Ode to the Evening Star is one of the jewels of his career and is enough to bring any opera house down. Hans Sotin I have yet to see or hear a disappointing performance from and here is no exception, as his Landgrave is sonorous and authoritative in every regard. Which brings me to the Venus of Ruthild Engert-Ely. She is at times underpowered in her lower register making her not as thrilling as Tatiana Troyanos and especially Meier, but I very much like the smoky quality of her voice, that contrasted well with Studer. I did feel some sympathy for Venus here as Tannhauser turned his back on her twice in this production also. Joy Robinson's Shepherd is suitably boyish, and the knights of Wartburg are impressive.

In conclusion, well done and beautifully sung. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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