The best one is from Bayreuth in 1978, with Wenkoff and Jones, this performance doesn't come up to that awesome standard, but there are many fine things in it. Anytime Waltraud Meier sings a Wagner role, it's an occasion for rejoicing. She is fourteen years older than the first time she sang Venus on film, in 1994, and the voice has aged somewhat but the commitment is still there. You believe she is Venus, coaxing her boy-toy Tannhauser to stay with her. Pity that the object of her love is the charisma-challenged Robert Gambill; I find him one of the weak links of this production, vocally and visually. Roman Trekel as Wolfram isn't as commanding as Bernd Weikl was but has some good moments. Camilla Nylund is superb as Elizabeth, she is younger and the rigours of Wagner singing hadn't worn her down yet. The sets by Raimund Bauer were quite effective; the staircase was decorated differently in each act. I will try to forget the cartoonish dancers; did the costumer want them to suggest plasticine figures, or what? All in all, an enjoyable but hardly definitive production of Wagner's most engrossing opera.
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