Wagner's 'Tannhäuser' from the Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Amber Wagner as Elisabeth at the Lyric Opera (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Tannhäuser is torn between the moral purity of love from the saintly Elisabeth and the sensual love offered by the goddess Venus. On this broadcast, recorded in February at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, renowned South African tenor Johan Botha plays the title role for the first time in front of an American audience. The new production of the opera by Tim Albery is conducted by British conductor Sir Andrew Davis.

Landgrave (Canadian bass John Relyea) sponsors a song contest where Tannhäuser competes against fellow poets including Wolfram (Canadian baritone Gerald Finley). The audience is shocked to find that Tannhäuser has been visiting Venus (German mezzo-soprano Michaela Schuster) and is sent away to ask for the Pope’s forgiveness.

The three-act opera, which opened in 1845, is sung in German with projected English translations. It was previously seen in the Lyric’s 1988-89 and 1963 seasons.


Tannhäuser: Johan Botha
Venus: Michaela Schuster
Elisabeth: Amber Wagner
Wofram: Gerald Finley
Landgrave: John Relyea

CONDUCTOR: Sir Andrew Davis
DIRECTOR: Tim Albery
CHORUS MASTER: Michael Black
CHOREOGRAPHER: Jasmin Verdimon

Comments [7]

Les from Miami, Florida

Wagner's titles for his operas and music dramas are usually short and direct; and the fact that the complete title for this one is "Tannha"user und der Sa"ngerkrieg auf Wartburg" (Tannha"user and the Tournament of Song at Wartburg) makes me believe that he thought both the tournament was as important and significant as Tannha"user's adventures and tribulations. Bearing that out is Elisabeth's greeting "Dich teure Halle", the "Entrance of the Guests" and, of course, the tournament itself. The 1869 revision "The Paris Version" with the extended ballet certainly reveals Wagner's more mature compositional style. Mine is probably a minority opinion in that I prefer the original 1845 or "Dresden version" with the cascading strings adorning the "Pilgrims' Chorus" theme that concludes the Overture. I think Mr. Botha is an excellent dramatic tenor rather than a heldentenor; and I enjoyed Messrs. Relyea, Finley and Mesdames Wagner and Schuster. Sir Andrew Davis always conducts with a sure hand.

Jul. 04 2015 04:24 PM
George from 40th street

I thought Botha was magnificent and cannot wait to see him in this role next fall at the Met. Girth has nothing to do with my appreciation of an artist. He has a gorgeous voice. His Walther was peerless last fall in MEISTERSINGER.

Jun. 27 2015 09:39 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

JOHAN BOTHA, the Tannhauser, is physically larger than PAVAROTTI or JESSYE NORMAN at their weightiest. His voice in this performance is nasal and thin and not of the quality one would associate with that of a lead singer in any opera company. MICHAELA SCHUSTER, the Venus, JOHN RELYEA, the Landgraf Hermann, and GERALD FINLEY, the Wolfram, far outmatched BOTHA vocally. Perhaps, said tongue in cheek, they were endeavoring the Elizabeth to "appear" romantic when matched with a Tannhauser with still larger girth. Thee orchestra and chorus performed splendidly under the authoritative baton of Sir Andrew Davis. www.WagnerOpera.com

Jun. 27 2015 04:21 PM

http://tinyurl.com/ne3csdy "Meeting Venus" ....it says

Jun. 27 2015 03:48 PM

Yes, Concetta - We have much work to do to out - protect, further, even develop - our - humans' - good qualities.

Jun. 27 2015 03:41 PM
Christopher Hosford from Bronx, NY

This is a magnificent piece. I became acquainted with it in college, and played the Venusberg scene again and again. The saintliness is a little sticky, but overall great Wagner stuff. Looking forward to Botha's interpretation ... hope he still retains his freshness in this essentially lyrical part.

Jun. 27 2015 11:56 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

There is a fine film entitled Meeting Venus starring Glenn Close. It is about a production of Tannhauser. Enjoyable. It should have done better at the box office. Not enough explosions and random acts of violence.

Jun. 27 2015 06:58 AM

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