Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wagner - Tannhauser|
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
A romantic opera in three acts with music and libretto by Richard Wagner, performed by the Orchestra of the Teatro di San Carlo. The original title, Tannhauser und der Sangerkrieg auf Wartburg, reveals the real nature of ... more »
Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 07/06/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This production's major star attraction is Werner Herzog. I don't think the camera work does justice to his genius. It doesn't capture the beauty of the visual style. The camera invites you to scrutinize the details, rather than be hypnotized by the overall gestalt of the massive blocks of color and geometric patterns. This is particularly evident in the opening Venusberg scene that is set in billowing red cloth. During the opening performance of "Tannhäuser" at the Baltimore Opera this year (directed by Herzog with the same sets) the transition from Venusberg to the valley near Wartburg was spectacular and earned applause from the audience. At the precise moment when Tannhäuser sings "my salvation is in Mary" (40 minutes into the DVD), he steps forward outside of the red cloth. The sheets of billowing red cloth are quickly and spectacularly pulled back to reveal a grassy knoll flanked by four large pillars beneath and the shepherd, dressed all in white leaning against one of the pillars. The Venusberg scene on this DVD, on the other hand, is almost embarrassing.Better work could have been done with directing the singers how to move. Some busy Directors leave this task to an assistant director. It seems Herzog was mainly focused on the large visual details. Woodrow moves insecurely, particularly in the Venusberg scene where he seems very uncomfortable. It seems it was difficult to walk on that billowing red cloth (and/or he felt uncomfortable in his insubstantial curved-tip Arabian sandals). In the song contest scene the competing singers respond to Tannhäuser by making funny faces and displaying their anger like a bunch of adolescents. The naturalistic group dynamics is incongruent with Herzog's more abstract approach - there should be more discipline and precision in that department.The audio quality is considerably better than the Nabucco from the same source. Where the Nabucco had a boxy acoustic with no aura around the voices, the audio here goes in the opposite direction - you can here the voices reverberating in the auditorium after the end of a note. There are problems with the balance though, mainly front to back. There are 3 pairs of microphones (for the stage) set at the front end of the stage. The singers sound significantly louder as they move forward. At the moment mentioned above when Tannhäuser steps forward outside of the red cloth, he drops very close to a pair of microphones and when he sings "praise to thee, almighty God" (44:50 minutes) he sounds unnaturally loud. No singer is affected more by this unstable balance than the bass Andrea Silvestrelli as Herman. When he appears at act II at the back of the stage (1:17:05) his voice sounds strangely thin ("Do I find you here in this hall"), but as he steps forward his voice assumes a different quality, almost a different timbre that is full bodied and pleasantly secure. There is also a much more subtle side to side unsteadiness of balance. Generally the audio prefers the singers. I actually liked this "unnatural" balance precisely because of that. It's certainly preferable to the kind of "natural" balance DECCA engineers experimented with in the early 60's, where the singers get no advantage over the orchestra. The tenor role is a real killer. An entire live performance of a really well done Tannhäuser end to end is rare. Most tenors try to save the voice for act III. Alan Woodrow displays nervousness at the beginning of acts I and II but as he gets into the part he shows he is a real Heldentenor - not only secure middle and upper chest but also impeccable top notes. He underlines the meaning of the words by shading his voice intelligently. The first two acts lead you to think he is comfortable only at full throttle in line with rumors following his Don Jose at the ENO (that "he is very good in dramatic passages, but less so in lyrical"). However, act III sets the seal on his Tannhäuser as an unmitigated victory, which proves IMO that his limitations are mostly secondary to anxiety, not hardware. I think he complies in his own way with Wagner's request to sing the pilgrimage narration softly and not as a grand operatic showpiece. This narration can be delivered any number of ways, from sadly (Windgassen) to defiant (Kollo), and Woodrow sets his personal style by mocking the Pope's utterances in an angry-bitter-sarcastic way. Kuhn's conducting shows his studies with Karajan. His tempi are very measured but never lethargic and he builds the climaxes in a very calculated way. He chose the Dresden version where the Bacchanale (the absent Ballet lamented by Howard Morton) is more rudimentary than in the revised and improved Paris version. He doesn't try to strike photogenic poses for the camera like so many other conductors. The voice on the audio referred to by Flesh and Wine isn't Herzog's directions (! ) but that of the energetic prompter (souffleur - mais celui-ci ne souffle pas). The prompter is an essential part of the production and he deserves to be heard just like any of the singers, rather than whispering cowardly from under the stage. There is no reason why he should not protect the foundations of the western civilization and its sacred traditions by continuing beyond the first words to read all the text. Moreover, there is no reason he should be shamefully hidden from the public's view like some leper. He should be proudly visible to the audience right in center stage, his name should be mentioned in the credits and he should join the others to get his share of the applause at the end of every act. Enough with tyranny! Down with the singers! SOUFFLEURS DU MONDE ENTIER, UNISSEZ-VOUS!"
A Good Live Performance -- Slightly Odd Production
Dan Sherman | Alexandria, VA USA | 06/17/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a good performance of the (revised) Dresden version of the opera -- there is no ballet after the overture but Venus does appear at the end of the opera. This is a recording of a live performance of a production at Orchestra of the Teatro di San Carlo. I saw the same production at the Baltimore Opera and found it generally effective. The production was designed by film director Werner Herzog. The set is fairly spare most of the time, with most of the characters dressed in bright white, often billowy clothes. In this production, Herzog had offstage fans blowing, which made the singers' clothes blow in a gentle breeze most of the time. The effect was usually pleasant, adding a bit of movement, but it sometimes was distracting. Sometimes the costumes were weird -- during the entrance of the guests in Act 2, knights came in looking like a cross between the KKK and stormtroopers from Star Wars. The one break from the white was the scenes with Venus, who was dressed in scarlet and for whom the stage backgroup were the same color. This was a fairly straightforward, four-square production of Tannhauser. It was well-sung and played and the staging (and costumes) did not generally distract from the opera.The sound on the DVD is good (though there is a fair amount of stage and sometimes audience noise). There are English subtitles though (somewhat disappointingly) no German.This is good Tannhauser, though I would also like to see the Met's broadcast from the 80's on DVD, in part to get a bit more color in the production. This may not be the best possible Tannhauser that you will ever see on DVD, but it is worth having, whatever competition it may eventually get."
If you're new in Wagner...
Erico Mangaravite | Vitoria, ES Brazil | 09/05/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you aren?t a experienced Wagnerian (like me: I never listened the complete "Ring", or "Tristan"), this is a good choice. A not ?difficult? opera, with some good tunes, an easy story.
The orchestra, if isn?t a ?top? one, sounds good. The choir is acceptable.
The conductor, Gustav Kuhn, a pupil of Herr von Karajan, really turns Wagner in a good experience. He counts with good singers: the Heldentenor, Alan Woodrow, seems a little uncertain in pitch at the beginning, but gains confidance , and his performance is, overall, very good. Other great pleasures are the deep bass of Andrea Silvestrelli (Landgraf Hermann), and baritone Ludwig Baumann as Wolfram . Venus and Elisabeth both sings very well , althought Pentcheva isn?t my perfect idea of a love?s goddess.
I liked the stage design. Isn?t a tradicional one, but also isn?t a ridiculous one, like a lot of ?pseudo-modernist? productions. Some colleagues here doesn?t like some concepts of Herzog, but for me they are all beautiful. The contrast between Venus and her hill, in red, and the other caracters, in white, is very impactant on the video ? and with a high picture quality. The sound is, sometimes, very loud (when the singers are near the front end of the stage ? a balance trouble) , and there is a very boring prompter (at the Venusberg he?s irritanting). But these are minor faults. Also, unfortunately we have only English (and not German!) subtitles. If you like to watch ?having the words in your hands?, download a libretto in the Internet.
I never watched the two other versions of this opera on DVD (Levine / Mehta),but I?m very satisfied with this one. If you can live with all these weak points (I can), buy it. The strong points: good sound (with minor faults); excellent picture quality (very superior to Metropolitan?s DVDs); very good singers ; and a good work, from conductor Kuhn and director Herzog. Don?t be afraid because it is Wagner: this is an easy Wagner."
Won't you show me the way to Venusberg?
Erico Mangaravite | 06/11/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Poor Tannhäuser; he was born in the wrong millenium. Hewould've fit right into modern society and been thought of as justmore fodder for the supermarket tabloids. The sanctimonious lot at the Wartburg would've been ones subject to contempt, ridicule, hatred, and perhaps a visit from Janet Reno. But, for his day, Richard Wagner's early opera must have seemed rather daring.The fleshy pleasures of Venusberg have palled for the greatest minstrel of medieval Germany, and he abandons the bed of the goddess to seek more spiritual and less fleeting ecstasies. He returns in time for a song contest at Wartburg castle, the seat of the Landgrave (the German equivalent of an earl, I think) of Thuringia. His rivals Wolfram, Walter, and Biterolf sing the praises of the virginal and pious daughter of the Landgrave, Elizabeth, to win her love, but Tannhäuser keeps interrupting the singers to tell them they know nothing of love. Finally, he lets slip that he's been partying with the goddess of love, and it's as though he's dropped his pants at a Presidential banquet. The other knights and minstrels are all in favor of making a pincushion out of him, but Elizabeth, since he's the one she loves, stops them and sends Tannhäuser on a pilgrimage to Rome to ask for absolution from the Pope. The Pope refuses - never mind that he can't do that according to Catholic doctrine - and Tannhäuser decides maybe Venusberg is the place for him after all. This DVD of 'Tannhäuser' is only the second of Wagner's operas to become availble in the US in that format (Syberberg's film of 'Parsifal' is the first). It didn't look too promising at first. It's a tape of a live performance, and the overture has just shots of the orchestra for visual interest (I'm told that it's the Dresden version). It opens in Venusberg which looks a lot like an enormous red satin bedspread with a couple of dolls - Venus and Tannhäuser - on it. Marianna Pentcheva doesn't have quite the looks for a sex goddess, but she's passable; her voice is better suited. Alan Woodrow is a short and stumpy Tannhäuser, but he sings and acts the role well enough that he's believable. The sets start looking better mid-way through the first act, but the costumes don't. Everybody is dressed in long white satin which makes them variously resemble Klansmen, refugees from a burn ward, Arab sheiks, and who knows what else. They certainly don't look like medieval German knights and minstrels. Some of the female choir have what looks like a huge croissant for a headress. Apart from the costumes, the performance is excellent. The orchestra seems less sluggish and heavy than is usual for a Wagnerian work, and the singers I thought were all very good. Andrea Silvestrelli as the Langrave sings an impressive basso profundo.The ending is astoundingly corny. Werner Herzog directed the stage performance, and I can barely believe he had anything to do with it.Since it's a live performance, there's quite a bit of background noise including voices off-stage but not much from the audience. The recording is clear enough to hear Herzog's directions. The film direction is so-so, but probably the best that can be done for a live performance. The DVD has few extras; not even sub-titles in the original language which is a pet peeve of mine. Also, I don't know why opera DVDs don't have extensive notes as CDs do. One shouldn't have to buy a CD also to get adequate notes and introduction. Otherwise, it's fine disc and worth the money."