Richard Wagner 1813–1883
Romantic opera in 3 acts
Libretto by the composer
First performed October 19 1845, Hoftheater, Dresden
Sung in German with German & English surtitles
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin
An artist is galled - by hostility to sensuality in the world he lives in, the intensity of his desires and the moral values that drive him deeper and deeper into isolation
After living out his erotic fantasies with Venus, Goddess of Love, Tannhäuser feels drawn back to the morally rigid life at Wartburg. His delight at seeing his beloved Elisabeth again is quickly followed by his engendering public outrage: Tannhäuser sings the praises of erotic pleasures instead of the purity of love at a singing competition. To avoid being a social pariah he must go and beg the Pope for forgiveness. But this is denied him, so a return to life as it once was is impossible for Tannhäuser and Elisabeth.
Richard Wagner's score is still traditionally romantic, but allows glimpses of the through-composed works to come. Inspired by the legendary minnesingers Tannhäuser and Heinrich von Ofterdingen, he created a protagonist who »Never and nowhere did things by halves, but everything with all it takes«. The title figure’s restlessness mirrors Wagner‘s constant re-working of the score. Shortly before his death he told his wife Cosima that he »still owed the world his Tannhäuser!«. This new production uses the 1875 Vienna edition, allowing us to hear the contrast between the worlds of Venus and Wartburg very clearly.
In the end Tannhäuser and Elisabeth sense increasing inner turmoil; brought up to be deeply religious, she struggles with the catholic church’s reactionary stance. She hopes her unconditional commitment to the outcast might break down prevailing moral ideals ...