Stefan Anton Reck
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
20 January 2011
Teatro Comunale Bologna
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
HermannEnzo Capuano
TannhäuserIan Storey
Wolfram von EschenbachMartin Gantner
Walther von der VogelweideGabriele Mangione
BiterolfValdis Jansons
Heinrich der SchreiberArmaz Darashvili
Reinmar von ZweterChristian Faravelli
ElisabethMiranda Keys
VenusPatrizia Orciani
Ein junger HirtGuanqun Yu

Tannhäuser returns after forty years but fails to impress

Due to a 40% budget cut all Italian opera companies might have no choice but to close down unless funding is restored to the budget in a vote to be held early in February.

For this reason, the Sunday performance of Wagner’s Tannhäuser at Bologna’s Teatro Comunale was preceded with an announcement by the workers protesting against the cuts and reading Article 9 of the Italian constitution (that the Republic fosters the arts, scientific research and the country’s cultural and natural heritage), which is becoming a popular feature of live performances following the precedent set by Daniel Barenboim at La Scala’s opening night last December.

After that, the orchestra and the chorus performed the national anthem as a sign of respect for the constitution. Unfortunately whether such protests will be listened to by the government, presently busy with the private problems of the prime minister, seems doubtful.

Tannhäuser was the opening work of the severely reduced 2011 season (it features only five operas), with the company waiting for the arrival of the recently nominated new general manager, Francesco Ernani, to replace outgoing Mario Tutino, whose tenure has been characterized by strong contrasts with the orchestra and the other workers of the Comunale.

The production, directed by Guy Montavon, came from Erfurt, and some of its specific features were perhaps not so readily exportable. For example, the second act was set in the library of the town of Weimer in the memory of the fire that burned 50,000 books in 2004. While Weimar is only minutes away from Erfurt it is far removed from Bologna. The first scene of the first act was visually the best part, with the sea projected on the stage and Venus and her reluctant lover suspended in the waves, while the planet Venus, also projected, rotated above them.

Throughout the performance the sets, designed by Edoardo Sanchi, remained quite simple and featured much less of the usual richness associated with this opera, a simplicity that was also reflected in the costumes by Amelie Hass.

The musical side was disappointing. Conductor Stefan Anton Reck did not seem to have reached a good rapport with the orchestra, which was a bit ragged in places, especially among the brass, and failed to convey any real emotion to the audience.

Ian Storey in the title role sounded at odds with the tessitura, especially in the opening duet, often resorting to falsetto at the top. Later he managed to improve his performance, in spite of persistent problems with the legato.

Patrizia Orciani was an utterly incomprehensible Venus on account of her bad diction, and forced her voice throughout the range. Miranda Keys as Elisabeth displayed a nice middle range, but produced some unpleasant sounds both at the top and in the lower register. Vocally the best on stage was Martin Gantner, an authoritative Wolfram, especially moving in his third act aria.

Tannhäuser had not been shown at the Teatro Comunale for forty years: perhaps, a longer wait would not have hurt.

Silvia Luraghi | Teatro Comunale di Bologna 23 January 2011

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320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 413 MByte (MP3)
Broadcast (RAI Radio 3)
A production by Guy Montavon