"Great Performances at the Met" Tannhäuser (TV Episode 1982) Poster

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My favorite Wagner opera
Dennette11 November 2002
I have two copies of this opera on CD, and just purchased the DVD of this performance to replace my VHS copy. The VHS is two tapes, and I kept them cued to the scenes with the pilgrims at the roadside shrine in Acts I and III ... now I can jump right to them on the single DVD.

This is a fine performance for introducing someone to opera. The subtitles provided are sufficient to keep up with the action without getting in the way of the singing. OTOH, a good opera guide, or a CD version with the full libretto in both English and German, is necessary for full appreciation of the story.

Although the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Opera Doc?" visually uses elements of Wagner's "Ring Cycle" (Bugs as Brunhilde, Elmer Fudd has a spear and magic helment), the musical themes are mostly from "Tannhäuser" ... you'll be surprised how much of this music you recognize, even if you've never seen or heard this opera before.

Good camera work, capturing the action on the Met stage from several angles... the costumes are great, and the opening "orgy" scene in Venusburg is delightfully choreographed. If I had to reduce my collection of videos and DVDs to only ten, this would be one of them.
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A wonderful Tannhauser
TheLittleSongbird2 August 2011
I like Wagner a great deal, and Tannhauser along with Tristan and Isolde and Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg is one of my favourites of his. The overture is one of Wagner's best overtures, and Ode to the Evening Star(or O Star of Eve) and Pilgrim's Chorus are among the best work Wagner ever wrote.

This 1982 production is truly wonderful, though if there is anything I didn't quite like it was Richard Cassily as Tannhauser(in all fairness the role is a voice-killer), I do like Cassily, but here acting-wise I don't personally find him very powerful and I find his singing at times rather pushed and nasal. He does interact well with Eva Marton, so I will give him some credit.

Everything else though is fine, with special mention going to the gorgeous costuming, striking and traditional set design, excellent video directing, and Otto Schenk's stage direction has a fair amount of realism to it. The music is brilliant and well served by some good sound, and played bombastically by the orchestra and the conducting while occasionally a little rushed is very assured.

In terms of staging, I was very taken by the opening scene especially. The performances aside from Cassily are terrific. Eva Marton is not my initial idea of Elisabeth, if I want the ideal soprano for the role aka one with more vulnerability and delicacy I would go towards Flagstead or even De Los Angeles. That said, Marton does do very well, I understand why people don't always find her compelling to watch(however I love her subtle acting) but there are some touches Marton does that I was touched by especially her genuine tears in Act 2. She does sing very powerfully too, and her Allmacht Ge Jungfrau, Hor Mein Flehen is one of the best sung arias of the production for me.

The Chorus are superb, very well balanced and pitched, the Pilgrim's Chorus has always been a big favourite and it doesn't disappoint here. If I had to pick two of the best performers of this Tannhauser, it would be the late Tatiana Troyanos(the more I hear her, the more impressed I am) as a truly thrilling Venus and Bernd Weikl who nails Wolfram and his Ode to the Evening Star comes very close to stealing the show. The underrated John Macurdy also does very well as Landgrave.

So overall, a wonderful Tannhauser. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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