The Sunday Opera: Wagner's "Tannhauser" from the Royal Opera House
We’re off to medieval Wartburg with a side trip to Venusberg on this week’s Sunday Opera (7/25 3:00 p.m.) with Wagner’s “Tannhauser” from London’s Royal Opera House. Heinrich von Ofterdingen, a minnesanger (minstrel)-knight known as Tannhauser, is caught in a battle between sacred and profane love: the sacred being his love for Elizabeth and the profane his love for the pagan goddess Venus. After finally rousing himself from the pleasures of Venusberg, he seeks redemption from the pope who rebuffs Tannhauser by saying, “As this staff in my hand, no more shall bear fresh leaves, from the hot fires of hell, salvation never shall bloom for thee.” With this, Tannhauser calls once again to Venus who returns to welcome him back to Venusberg, but before she can claim him, Tannhauser sees the funeral of Elizabeth. Realizing that he is the cause of Elizabeth’s death, he too dies as Venus vanishes, and the pope’s staff is carried in having sprouted leaves and flowers. In this performance, Tannhauser is sung by Peter Seiffert, and Elisabeth is Emma Bell with Stephen Milling as her uncle. The Venus in this production is Sophie Koch, and the four other minnesangers are Christian Gerhaher, Ed Lyon, Samuel Sakker, and Jeremy White. Hartmut Haenchen conducts the Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.
Stay tuned after the opera for more music of Wagner and his birthday present for his wife Cosima, the very popular Siegfried Idyll performed by The Philharmonia with Francesco d'Avalos conducting.