James Levine
New York Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra
4 November 1997
Metropolitan Opera New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
HermannJan-Hendrik Rootering
TannhäuserWolfgang Schmidt
Wolfram von EschenbachBryn Terfel
Walther von der VogelweideJohn Horton Murray
BiterolfDean Elzinga
Heinrich der SchreiberThomas Studebaker
Reinmar von ZweterRichard Vernon
ElisabethSharon Sweet
VenusJeannine Altmeyer
Ein junger HirtDawn Upshaw
New York Times

A Realistic ‘Tannhauser’ Returns to the Met

‘Tannhauser” may be the least successful of the Metropolitan Opera’s true-to-life Wagner productions. Its gauzy realism — the Hudson Valley School of opera, if you will — offers at its best a benign unobtrusiveness to the Met’s ”Ring” production. But with only intermittent moments of good singing to occupy and center our attentions, Thursday’s revival only underlined the general drabness of this particular affair. Gunther Schneider-Siemmssen’s set dates from 1977 but looks even older.Act I, Scene 1 was the major hurdle, beginning with the opening ballet scene. It is a major embarrassment. Genteel, swaying hootchy-kootchy tries hard to pass for orgiastic but ends up looking silly. The title role was Thursday’s second disaster. Wolfgang Schmidt’s tenor transformed itself into a blunt instrument of particular unpleasantness: raw, loud, grating, dramatically coarse and musically crude.Mr. Schmidt sang impressively sharp for most of the first half-hour, but Jeannine Altmeyer’s persistent flatness as Venus worked earnestly to even things up. By the end of the evening, this Tannhauser had a lot more to be forgiven for than singing dirty songs to the chaste Elisabeth.One greeted Scene 2 with feelings of relief. Bryn Terfel appeared as Wolfram and gave us beautifully calculated singing and pinpoint articulation.Next to him was Jan-Hendrik Rootering, a deep and satisfying Hermann. Dawn Upshaw was heartfelt in her cameo Shepherd’s role. Sharon Sweet sang Elisabeth with a care and commitment I cannot remember from her past performances. Ms. Sweet gave Met audiences a heartening indication of what she still might do in the future.James Levine and the Met orchestra projected the delicacy and power that makes the instrumental end of Wagner in this house so special. Given the disappointing happenings onstage, Mr. Levine and his players might as well have been working in another town.

BERNARD HOLLAND Published: November 1, 1997

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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
192 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 256 MByte (MP3)
In-house recording
A production by Otto Schenk