Still the Best Tannhauser on DVD
Ryan Kouroukis | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 10/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I will quickly say that this is still my favorite in my opinion the best Tannhauser on DVD. The production is lush and beautiful and the performers act excellently...Levine does a wonderful job conducting as well!
Outstanding traditional performance
SuperSchtroumpf | Lyon, France | 04/22/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Tannhauser sets a high standard and is a must for any Wagner collection. The staging and production are traditional and follow the intended production, versus a modern or abstract interpretation. While some of my favorite singers are not in this opera, such as Siegfried Jerusalem, James Levine and the performers bring out the intense emotions of the characters - particularly Tannhauser - and give great life and energy to this opera."
Good, but what if...?
L. Lubin | NY, NY | 08/17/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The MET's Tannhaeuser was the first of James Levine and Otto Schenk's collaborations to return Wagner to naturalistic stagings that attempted to follow the composers directions. It was also the first time the MET used Wagner's later Paris version of the score, with its expanded Venusberg scene and revised Song Contest being the principle variants. Wagner added Tristan-esque chromatic harmonies to a fundamentally diatonic score, which some musicians find a bit jarring. I've lived with scores and recordings of both versions for a two decades, and I still lean towards the earlier Dresden version.
I saw this production a couple of times before this video was made, with much of the same cast; Leonie Rysanek as Elizabeth instead of Marton. Originally Jon Vickers was to have sung his first Tannhaeuser anywhere, but withdrew, citing his inability to reconcile with the character. Of course, this was a cover for his declining vocal resources in a role that almost nobody can sing well. James McCracken sang the premier instead. Richard Cassilly, never a first rank singer, took over the part in subsequent seasons and boy howdy, I am glad he did. The sound is not beautiful (how many Wagner tenors have beautiful voices, anyway?) In fact, before he gets warmed up, about half way through the Venusberg, his voices is rather pinched. But his phrasing and attention to word color is beautifully nuanced, and although he doesn't do a lot of physical acting, he is fully involved in and committed to his character.
The late and very great Tatiana Troyanos is the ideal Venus: sultry and voluptuous of voice and form, and Levine milks as much from her scene as he possibly can, which means he plays it even slower than his customary broad tempi. In the very much longer Paris version of this scene seems to go on forever. The choreography of the Bacchanale is bland and trite, although the sets here are spectacular.
When you can see them! The video was shot during live performance, so no adjustment to the lighting was made; therefore the cameras of the time were unable to handle the contrast between the well lit foregrounds and dark backgrounds: upstage distances tend to disappear into black. This is a problem in every scene. Act two, with its beautifully painted Wartburg castle interior fares a little better in terms of the action, but the frescoes are rarely visible. Fortunately, the pageantry and costumes make up for it.
Eva Marton, then very fresh of voice, sings Elizabeth very well, but her rather mature and frumpy acting is no match for Troyanos. Bernd Weikl was in fine form as Wolfram, but the director doesn't let him make much of his character. John Macurdy, under-recorded and unfortunately little remembered these days, is a solid Landgraf. But the part of Biterolf, an aging Knight Crusader, is sung by a young man with no attempt at age make-up, making the text at this point, well, silly.
By the time we reach the third act Maestro Levine has been reminded that the orchestra and stagehands will go into union overtime if he doesn't get a move on, and he does. This is one of very few time I can remember (another being his Fidelio after the hip surgery) when I thought he was too fast. The Pilgrims' Chorus seems rushed, Wolfram's great Song to the Evening Star...and the final peroration just zip by. Why, there isn't even a rallentando at the end. And no children's voices for the descant (too late to keep them up?). It kind of makes me feel cheated.
This isn't a bad Tannhaueser. There are many things to enjoy. But not completely satisfying, either. If you want to experience the kind of wallop this opera can pack, go for the Colin Davis/Bayreuth version that was released last year. I'll be reviewing it soon.
Wagner - Tannhauser
Carlos Ivan Grimas Acosta | David, Panama | 02/28/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This marvelous MET stage production of Wagner's opera is the best I ever seen upon our days. It contents all of the best wagnerian singing and of course from outstanding superb voices as Eva Marton, Tatiana Troyanos and the passed away great american tenor Richard Cassilly. I believe this is one of the finest MET Wagnerian dramas ever staged: the set and costume design are gorgeous and obviously the beautiful MET Orchestra- Chorus and direction in the hands of maestro James Levine put the lovely touch of good sense of drama and feeling to this Wagner work."