Wonderful singing and musical values but undistinguished production values and staging and wretched video directing
Tannhauser I have a lot of affection for. It is not my favourite of Wagner's operas, but it is very intriguing and the music is just outstanding especially alongside Der Fliegende Hollander the best Overture Wagner ever wrote. I however found this production disappointing, although I didn't think much of the 1994 and 2008 productions either this is probably my least favourite of the Tannhausers I've seen.
It is certainly not bad. The orchestral playing is very powerful, yet shows some sensitivity when needed. Franz Welser-Most's conducting has authority especially in his delicate reading of the Overture. The chorus sing with a strong sturdy sound, though their acting is static. There are three good performances. Peter Seiffert gives a Tannhauser that is heroic, noble and intense, and apart from a couple of moments of unsteadiness sings strongly and musically. Solvieg Kringelborn's Elisabeth is very touching and she sings beautifully in Act 2. Isabelle Kabatu's Venus is sexy and thrilling, with very impassioned singing.
The rest of the cast are competent but have been better before. That is especially true of Jonas Kaufmann. He sings beautifully, but has gone on to better performances in roles that show off his musicality better. Roman Trekel is good as Wolfram, he is steadier than he was in the 2008 performance and sings sonorously. But the stage direction doesn't allow him to do as much with the role as he had potential to, he is not quite noble or sympathetic enough. Rolf Haunstein is a solid if undistinguished Biterolf, while Alfred Muff is pretty much the same as Landgraf.
However, the production has a fair number of problems. The lighting is rather cold-looking, while the sets are unappealing and not very evocative. The Venusberg setting especially is completely lacking in sensuality. Of the costumes, only Elisabeth's are flatting and look decent, everyone else is dressed in drab colours or in costumes that actually confuse us with what setting the opera is meant to be set in. For instance Tannhauser's heavy overcoat would be home in the 50s but seemed out of place here even within the concept. The staging on the whole is dull, the only exception being Tannhauser and the Shepherd throwing dirt at one another, the interplay at this point was quite cute. The rest doesn't do much with making the characters detailed or human, which was part of the reason why half the cast never got the chance to distinguish themselves.
Given the choice of what was the worst asset, it was easily the video directing. The video directing here is truly wretched, some of the worst and most amateurish I have seen for any opera production ever. Not only are the close ups of anything from someone's head or hands(even just torsos at times) to a clarinet pad distracting, but what was also incongruous was the fact that some of the camera work focused on something else when someone was singing. A prime example was Wolfram singing in Act 3 and the camera doesn't focus on him but Elisabeth. It also shows us the TV screens, ideally if I want to see an opera production I want it to enhance the production from an almost cinematic point of view, the video directing fails abysmally in this respect. And finally, seeing Seiffert sweating profusely is really not a pretty sight, I know singers sweat but as well as people getting ready off screen there seems to be an obsession with giant beads of sweat coming from peoples' pores.
In conclusion, I loved the musical values and singing on the whole, but the production was mostly undistinguished and the video directing was so bad it would render you speechless. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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