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Sat, 17. Apr 2021, 16:00

Opera in three acts by Richard Wagner

After seven years of enjoying sensual pleasures in the realm of Venus, the goddess of love, the minstrel Tannhäuser longs to return to his terrestrial life, and especially to his earthly beloved, Elisabeth. But his ambition to unite art and life as well as erotic lust and religious love fails because of the rigid conventions of Wartburg Castle’s bigoted community, and his own radicalism.

For the libretto of his romantic opera, which premiered in Dresden in 1845, Richard Wagner used literary versions of medieval sagas by Ludwig Tieck, E. T. A. Hoffmann and Ludwig Bechstein. In doing so, he merged two sources of material: the Wartburg Singer’s Contest around Heinrich von Ofterdingen at the beginning of the 13th century and the saga of the minstrel and poet Tannhäuser, who is said to have sought in vain for forgiveness from the Pope for his sins in Venusberg. The religious-philosophical dualism of pure erotic pleasure and the pious transfiguration of love is reflected in Wagner’s score in two equally contradictory soundscapes: there are sensual, seductive sounds for the realm of Venus, and solemn pilgrim choruses for the earthly world. During the singing contest, which is at the centre of the opera, these two worlds clash irreconcilably: while the other minstrels chastely sing about the essence of love, Tannhäuser causes a public outcry when he reveals details of his sojourn in Venusberg. Unable to find a lasting synthesis of the two worlds, Tannhäuser dies, rejected by the Pope but redeemed by Elisabeth’s love.

approx. 4:05 h including two intervals