David Alden's production of Wagner's grand romantic opera was recorded at the National Theatre in Munich, with Bayerische Staatsoper, in September 1994. Shot over three days by leading opera director Brian Large, this reco... more »rding benefits from the ideal technical conditions made possible by a closed session. Alden, one of the most iconoclastic interpreters of classicalopera, stirs up the visionary, erotic, and archetypal elements in Wagner's work. The cold, forbidding aspect of the stylized and predominantly monochrome sets and costumes by Roni Toren and Buki Shiff manifests the strait-jacket of tradition from which Tannhauser seeks to free himself in this powerful opera. 186 minutes. Hermann Landgrave of Thuringia: Jan Hendrik Rootering
Noam Eitan | Brooklyn, NY United States | 04/17/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When American soprano, Nadine Secunde, appeared as Elisabeth in act II of this Munich production of Tannhäuser, I was transfixed. "She looks like she is straight out of a '30's production," I thought. Could this have been what Kirsten Flagstad's debut in the MET felt like to her unsuspecting audience? How do you describe a star? Whatever it takes to be one, Ms. Secunde has got it. It is not only her voice and magnetic stage presence. She has this rare dramatic quality that hypnotizes you and makes you forget everything else. Despite this, she has performed for years, generally, to mixed reviews.This is rather shocking. How can the existence of a talent of this order go unannounced by headlines in the media? All anyone has ever been hearing for the past half-century is that, "there are no great Wagnerian voices these days." The truth is that some of today's young singers surpass their distinguished predecessors. The reason that they do not receive the same kind of adulation as these earlier legends is twofold. First, the public is conditioned by reissued recordings and has become less receptive to new talent. This rigidity, shaped and nurtured by technology, is unprecedented in the history of the performing arts. The second reason is that, in the opinion of a number of performers, the music and recording industry is a Mafia. This explains why some singers are regulars on every other new recording (e.g. C.S.), while others languish. Another pleasant surprise on this DVD is René Kollo. When he recorded this Tannhäuser he had been singing the role for a quarter of a century. I expected him to be beyond his prime. However, my impression was that even though his voice was not as youthful sounding as on the '71 Solti set, he compensated with better discipline. The impetuous quality of his sound production on the Solti was in character. It had its charms. Though, it was somewhat annoying beyond a certain point, particularly with the occasional deficiency of vibrato. His conception of the role here is more detailed and controlled. Personally I prefer the wisdom of experience he brings to the role in this performance to his histrionics on the Solti set.The rest of the cast is first rate. Waltraud Meier and Bernd Weikl are incomparable. Zubin Mehta conducts this score as if he had been doing it all his life. He supports the singers without drowning them, maintains just the right level of drama and does not use it as a vehicle of his ego to make a statement about the meaning of life. It is quite amazing to recall that only twenty years earlier Mehta was struggling to be taken seriously as a Wagnerian conductor in Europe. After you listen to this glorious cast on act I, you feel that this is as good as it can get. But then Nadine Secunde appears in act II, and the rest is history.I lack the erudition, the refinement and the cultural sophistication to comment on the bizarre sets and décor.There are now three Tannhäusers on DVD. This one has the best voices and the best sound. The Naples production benefits from film director Werner Herzog's genius and is reviewed separately. Compared to these two the MET's is shockingly traditional, in the best possible sense. It is a throwback to how a lavish Tannhäuser may have looked a hundred years ago. The dark lighting serves to highlight the romanticism. The major drawback of the MET production is the poor German diction of the tenor, Richard Cassilly. He also sounds strained. Picture quality on the MET is in line with other Pioneer Classics reissues-grainy. It is much better on the other two Tannhäuser DVD's."
Some of the problems are Wagner's fault; some aren't.
Alex Moffat | Wichita Falls, Texas USA | 02/13/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This production has a good deal wrong with it. I'm not necessarily opposed to "modern" productions that employ symbolism Wagner would never have approved of: The Parsifal film produced by Hans-Juergen Syberberg intrigued me, and I thought that heavy load of symbolism was mostly pretty well integrated with the actual Parsifal.
Here, however, the first act has gone badly wrong. The overture goes directly into the opening scene in the Venusberg. so far, so good; that is not how the opera was first produced either in Dresden (1845) or in Paris (1861), but Wagner had good reasons for doing it that way later on (1872--see Ernest Newman's "The Wagner Operas" for a guide through the various versions the composer attempted, combining his earlier and later thoughts and styles).
Where I dissent is that the Venusberg scene, which was intended as a lush and sensual ballet for Paris, has here been turned into a bleak and ugly representation of Tannhauser's despair, when he has found himself surfeited from delights he has enjoyed too much, for too long.
This makes dramatic nonsense out of the second act. In the argument about the nature of love Tannhauser cries out that the other singers know nothing about what it really is, and he wants to go back to the Venusberg that exemplifies it (driving the action forward toward the third act finale). But we know nothing about love or delight as it concerns Venusberg, only vacant-eyed characters symbolic of decedance, wandering aimlessly about the stage (occasionally doing backflips, struggling to carry heavy rocks, etc.). The Mountain of Venus must have pulled hard at the hapless Tannhauser, not once, but twice, and we have no idea from what we have seen how it could have happened.
Other failings are more trivial, but I have to mention the completely inadequate "chapter index," which runs up to #44 with short German labels and is without translations or guides other than act divisions. The cast is listed, but amazingly the roles are nowhere assigned (or even named).
The singing I think is mostly pretty good, but Rene Kollo's wobble is markedly unpleasant, particularly at the beginning, and, although he looks the part, his gestures are too often of the school-play variety. Rootering, Weikl, Secunde, and Meier are all outstanding. Costuming is bad in places: the singers who find Tannauser on the road are supposed to be in "hunting" clothes, but one of them is suited for court, in white and gold. Most of the women, both in Thuringia and in the Venusberg seem to prefer bodices (those who wear bodices) that shine like metal armor or very tight leather.
Wagner himself is considerably to blame. The opera has two quite different musical styles, two concepts for the tastes of two different cities, years apart, and it reflects too many second- and third-thoughts. The opera, for all its musical virtues, is badly constructed as it appears today.
I would, in any case, recommend waiting for a more coherent production."
Good singing, but very ugly staging
Nan-Kuang Chen | Taipei Taiwan | 08/21/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was soon put off before the overture comes to an end. The venusburg was like a madhouse, and the crowd in the great singing hall was like just running out from a madhouse... Call me closed-minded, but I am fed up with these stage directors who simply produce ridicules and distractions to the music. Kollo is admirabe except a bit restrained in the high range of his tone. Meier is a (fatally) seductive venus. Weikl, like a psychiatrist, is reliable as usual. Secunde is a superb Elisabeth. All in all, they deserve a much better staging.Those who still do not have any Tannhauser on vedio should wait for the 1978 Bayreuth production (currently in LD format)."
Gloomy but not for want of stars
Poldergeist | France | 02/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As for the visual aspect of this "Tannhäuser", it is dominated by gloom and a lack of colour to the point where it often looks like a black-and-white show.
The creatures living in the Venusberg look fleshy but hardly appetizing. "La chaire est triste" in this lovenest, and one wonders why Tannhauser went there in the first place. Wagner never suggested that his hero came from Mars, so why should he have felt attracted by that naked woman crawling over the scene and showing off her huge green (!)Bavarian buttocks?
Having fled this inferno (where boredom seems to be the greatest torment), our hero is supposed to find the colours and vigour of nature, but the real world is just as dark as the one he has left behind. There is no sign of hope in this opera (even the pilgrims come back dressed in black, just as they were before), so the only way out is death. All the more as Tannhauser's former friends are depicted as a bunch of unpleasant hypocrites, oddly dressed of course (I've got so used to these weird costumes that I hardly notice them anymore. Let's just be thankful they kept the scuba-diving equipment for next time).
The singing and acting is quite convincing on the other hand.
Meyer, Rooterink, and Weikl are excellent. Unlike other reviewers I do think Kollo sounds slightly past his prime. Some passages sound forced, and I prefer Windgassen anyway...
The biggest surprise for me wass Nadine Secunde. The prayer at the beginning of the third act moved me to tears. Here the bleak setting (not to mention the clothes) provided a potent contrast to the pure and deeply sensitive voice that brings light into this darkness.
The orchestra and chorus is very good. I love Mehta's interpretation of the prelude to the Third Act (the horns are magic)
All in all, I recommend this work in spite of its shortcomings. The overall quality is very good."
wagnerian | Caliifornia | 09/08/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Compared to that disastrous "Tristan und Isolde" this DVD is somewhat more acceptable, even though stage looks like designed by second-class graphic designer and acting is often silly.
The best thing in this production is obviously Waltraud Meier's Venus. She is beautiful and so convincing as a goddess of carnal pleasure."