This Tannhäuser is a fine example of something that unfortunately has become rare: a modern Wagner opera performance that Wagner would certainly have applauded. Under the artistic leadership of conductor James Levine, th... more »e production team of director Otto Schenk and designer Günther Schneider-Siemssen has adhered strictly to the composer's wishes. These are not hard to fathom; they were clearly articulated in his lifetime and rigorously enforced at Bayreuth long after his death. But in the last half-century they have been frequently violated by his descendants and heirs, among others. The temptation to plumb these music dramas for symbols and allegories is almost irresistible. In this production, like the later Met edition of the Ring cycle, the artists sensibly allow each audience member to develop a personal interpretation without undue interference. The singers--Richard Cassilly, Eva Marton, Tatiana Troyanos, Bernd Weikl, and John Macurdy--are superbly matched to their roles. --Joe McLellan« less
Ray Barnes | Surrey, British Columbia Canada | 06/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of the Paris version of Tannhauser was made from performances at the Met on November 22 and December 20, 1982. It features Richard Cassilly in the title role, Eva Marton as Elizabeth, Bernd Weikl as Wolfram von Eschenbach, John Macurdy as Hermann, Landgrave of Thringia, and Tatiana Troyanos as Venus, among many other performers. The sets are designed by Gunther Schneider-Siemssen. James Levine conducts. Taken as a whole, this is a successful performance, done in a very traditional manner. The costuming is outstanding, and the choral work deserves special recognition. Levine's tempi are brisk but not pushed hard and the whole opera runs for 185 minutes. The sound quality is excellent considering the medium and age of the recording itself. A brief synopsis but no libretto is submitted, which is reasonable considering the opera is also subtitled in English. In comparison to Solti's studio recording, the orchestral balance is not as forward or aggressive, and the singing is as fine. At medium price, this is definitely worth seeking out. Elegant packaging and presentation. Recommended."
Outstanding Visual Design
Frank Dudley Berry, Jr. | Mountain View, Ca USA | 02/10/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is not my favorite Wagnerian opera by a long shot. But it is a must own, for the simple reason that these are absolutely the best set designs ever done. The Venusberg scene is dazzlingly Bosch-ish, the entry into Wartburg looks like it stepped out of an Italian Early Renaissance fresco. A must own."
Good production marred by a poor performance by the lead rol
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 01/05/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Tannhauser is a Wagnerian opera that suffers from some undeserved snobbery. It was written during the phase when Wagner hadn't perfected the idea of a pure music drama. Tannhauser is unusual in that it blends some facets of French grand opera (that Wagner would so harshly criticize only a few years later) -- it has a ballet and set pieces and arias. I find this reputation undeserved -- Tannhauser is one of Wagner's more accessible operas to newcomers, and it is rich with beautiful melodies. But perhaps the biggest reason it's not performed as often as Wagner's other works is the extremely punishing, voice-killing title role. It's a rare tenor who is equipped to handle the demands of Tannhauser, especially the Rome narrative that comes at the end of 3 hours of singing. Otto Schenk's sets are unabashedly traditional, which is part of its appeal. With all the vague and obscure symbolism that directors love to clutter into Wagnerian operas, it's nice to see Tannhauser presented as it was meant to be -- a medieval morality play. Although Venusburg looks like a weird caricature of scantily clad dancers gyrating for no particular reason, the direction has a nice touch of realism. The sets for the Wartburg castle is very pretty. Tannhauser has a well-deserved reputation as a voice killer. From the very opening notes, I knew Richard Cassily's Tannhauser would be more workmanlike than inspiring. His voice has an unpleasant, pinched, nasal quality, and his stage presence is portly and uninspiring. He gets through the part, but the sounds he makes are not always pretty. To be fair it's a rare tenor who can even tackle Tannhauser, but opera is an auditory as well as visual experience, and Cassilly fails on both counts. Fortunately, he is surrounded by much stronger singers. Tatiana Troyanos is a thrilling Venus -- sexy, with a beautiful blooming voice. Venus's part is relatively brief but Troyanos makes her mark. Eva Marton is in her relatively brief prime vocally. Never the most compelling stage presence, hers is mostly a stand and sing performance, although close-ups reveal that she's shedding real tears in Act 2. Her voice can turn shrill under pressure, but it's a major league dramatic soprano. Her voice lacks a bit of delicacy and vulnerability for Elisabeth (listen to Victoria de los Angeles or Kirsten Flagstad), but it's a strong performance. "Allmacht-ge Jungfrau, hor mein Flehen" is very well-sung. Bernard Weikl's voice is disappointingly hollow, but he pulls it together (somewhat) for the famous "Ode to the Evening Star." I am deducting two stars because of Cassilly's vocally and physically unappealing Tannhauser, but I still recommend this video as a great introduction to one of Wagner's most underrated works. By the way, the production uses the *Paris* edition of the opera. Long story short: the premier of the opera n 1846 was not a success, and in 1861 Wagner made several changes, including writing a ballet in the Venusburg scene. The Paris premiere was not a success either, and Wagner remained unsatisfied with the opera up until his death in 1883."
A more traditional Wagner performance
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 10/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although I prefer the Bavarian State Opera's 1995 Tannhauser production--chiefly because Waltraud Meier is such a stunning Venus--this Met production is the best "traditional" Tannhauser.
The costumes and scenery are rich and elaborate. Even the Pope's staff sprouts beautifully green leaves, as the music announces the promise of renewed life for even the worst of sinners.
No singer appears to be an especially strong or weak link, although how can Bernd Weikl help but steal the show with Wagner's beautiful song to the Evening Star?
Credit must also be given to an often neglected star in opera productions: Gil Wechsler, the brilliant lighting designer, uses light to enhance the already splendid sets with a Tuscan afternoon glow."
Thelma Benjamin | 05/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This wonderful record of a traditional, Metropolitan Opera production of 1982, excels in every way. The lead singers are vocally thrilling, their acting expressive without being excessive, and they all look good for their roles. Cassily seems a bit mature and sometimes his singing is not lyrically beautiful, but he is a powerful Tannhauser. They are helped by the production, beautiful sets by Gunther Schneider- Siemssen, gorgeous costumes, especially for the women, intelligent direction. The Metropolitan orchestra is most compelling under the masterly leadership of a youthful James Levine and the chorus is glorious. Tatiana Troyanos looks absolutely ravishing as Venus and her singing in the first act is one of the many highlights of this rewarding DVD."