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Wagner Richard
Act 1 Scene I
Act 1 Scene II
Act 1 Scene III
Act 2 Scene I
Act 2 Scene II
Act 2 Scene III
Act 2 Scene IV
Act 3 Scene I
Act 3 Scene II
Act 3 Scene III
  • Richard Wagner. Grosse romantische Oper in three acts. 1845.
  • Libretto by the composer.
  • First performance at the Hoftheater, Dresden, on 19th October 1845.
Herrmann, Landgrave of Thuringia bass
Tannhäuser, a Minnesinger tenor
Wolfram von Eschenbach, a Minnesinger baritone
Biterolf, a Minnesinger bass
Walther von der Vogelweide, a Minnesinger tenor
Heinrich der Schreiber, a Minnesinger tenor
Reinmar von Zweter, a Minnesinger bass
Elisabeth, niece of the Landgrave soprano
Venus soprano
A Young Shepherd soprano
Four Pages soprano & alto

Tannhäuser lies sleeping by the couch of Venus. Bacchantes revel, but Tannhäuser wakens with a desire to return to the world, away from the sensual delights of the Venusberg. He is warned, but puts his trust in Mary, the Mother of Christ, at whose name he finds himself by her shrine in a valley near the Wartburg. He hears a shepherd singing a welcome to spring, sees pilgrims setting out for Rome, and falls to his knees in repentance. He is urged by the Landgrave to join his hunting-party and eventually persuaded when he hears that Elisabeth, the Landgrave's niece, is pining for him. At the Wartburg he meets Elisabeth and they celebrate the power of love. The song contest on the Wartburg brings conflict between Tannhäser and those who disapprove of the sensuous view of love that he expresses. Elisabeth saves Tannhäser from the swords of the angry knights, who insist he should join the pilgrims to Rome, in order to seek absolution. In Rome he finds no pardon, while Elisabeth, accompanied by the knight and Minnesinger Wolfram, anxiously awaits his return, praying to the Blessed Virgin for his salvation. Eventually, after the other pilgrims, Tannhäuser returns. The Pope has cursed him, telling him that only when the papal crozier bursts into flower will he ever be pardoned. Now Tannhäser seeks again the Venusberg. Wolfram restrains him by the mention of the name of Elisabeth, whose body is now born towards them in funeral procession. Tannhäser kneels by the side of the bier, praying for her intercession, at which young pilgrims are seen returning, carrying the Pope's crozier, now miraculously blooming.

Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg (Tannhäuser and the Singing Contest on the Wartburg) was Wagner's fifth opera and followed the staging in Dresden of Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman). In Dresden it was not fully understood, while staging in Paris in 1861, with an extended Bacchanale in the first act, to provide the element of ballet required by French tradition, was an utter disaster. Elsewhere, however, the opera soon entered general repertoire. Wagner continued with revisions to the work into the 1870s, but it is usual to distinguish broadly between the Dresden and Paris versions. The opera opens with a prelude that makes use of motifs associated with the pilgrims and with repentance, leading to the Venusberg music and, in the Paris version, the Bacchanale. Tannhäuser, waking, sings his Hymn to Venus. Elisabeth's greeting, Dich, teure Halle (O dear halls of song) comes in the second act, with its grand march for the entry of the guests and the Landgrave's welcome. The Pilgrims' Chorus has appeared in a variety of arrangements, while Wolfram's O du mein holder Abendstern (O star of eve) has suffered a similar fate. The demanding rôle of Tannhäuser brings an account of his reception in Rome, Inbrunst im Herzen (Contrite in heart), before the final lure of the Venusberg and his ultimate attainment of forgiveness.


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