Thursday, 31 July 2014

Wagner without the potions (Wagner in Norwich part II: Tannhäuser)

Tannhäuser (Theater Freiburg, Theatre Royal Norwich)
Tannhauser rates highly for me. The tunes are sensational, the brass resplendent, and some wonderful dramatic moments. And no magic potions (not that they bother me). The second instalment of WagnerFest in the Fens this summer was Tannhäuser.  Many will argue this is a more conventional opera than Parsifal. The house was much fuller on Sunday evening than it had been on Friday. 

In contrast to the beautiful music, the staging was very far from striking. It was grey, quotidian, and the production as a whole did not seem as far removed from the previous production. The confessional-pulpit-staircase-desk wheeled on and around worked quite well and provided much of the visual interest in the programme. The exception to this was the highly-successful  

This is Wagner without the potions. But a very similar plot device used was that, on hearing of Tannhäuser’s damnation, Elisabeth (sung very well by Dana Burasová) spontaneously expires, to plead with the almighty, so redeeming the protagonist. That he only loved (and never did anything about as far as we learn, that he was simply impure of heart), doesn’t seem to enter in to it. So despite the fact that Marius Vlad sang an impressive Tannhäuser, this does remain quite silly and alien. But I imagine it did since composition. 

Yet much like Lohengrin, the name of the real star of the show, is a secret. The shepherd boy, was quite terrifying. He sang loudly and clearly and powerfully and was clearly taken aback at the especially-loud cheers reserved. I should be astonished if there is not quite a career ahead. Bravo to the Soloist with the Boys Choir of Calw.

Overall: fine, soaring music, with a reasonable staging.


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