Tannhäuser

Michael Boder
Chor und Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Date/Location
11 November 2017
Deutsche Oper Berlin
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
HermannAlbert Pesendorfer
TannhäuserAndreas Schager
Wolfram von EschenbachMarkus Brück
Walther von der VogelweideClemens Bieber
BiterolfSeth Carico
Heinrich der SchreiberGideon Poppe
Reinmar von ZweterAndrew Harris
ElisabethEmma Bell
VenusEmma Bell
Ein junger HirtNicole Haslett
Gallery
Reviews
bachtrack.com

Rousing musical success in imaginative Tannhäuser at Deutsche Oper Berlin

German director Kirsten Harms’ production of Tannhäuser at Deutsche Oper Berlin dates from 2008 and is abstract and modern, with historical and religious symbols. Some ideas are effective and inspiring, while others are distracting and superfluous. Large screens in the back and sides bracketed the stage, and a platform that moved up and down made for efficient introduction and movements of performers and props. It is even conceivable that the whole opera was here staged as the hero’s imaginative trip in his pursuit of love and lust, given the dream-like (and sometimes nightmarish) quality of staging. Act 3 took place in what appeared to be a hospital lined with beds, and the hero did not so much die as collapsed in Elisabeth’s arms in confusion at the end.

Having the same singer take on both Venus and Elisabeth is not uncommon, but in this production the two were depicted as one and the same woman, dressed in white. While Venus had long flowing blond hair, Elisabeth wore chaste blond braids around her head. Elisabeth was busy braiding her hair in the early part of Act 2, as she encountered Tannhäuser after his return; Wolfram helped to untie her hair as Elisabeth was transformed back to Venus in Act 3. The Venus/Elisabeth character was not a straightforward one of black/white, sensuality/purity. She was more conflicted in the brutal male world that treated women as objects to be exploited or worshipped, two manifestations of a continuum of being female.

The overture began with an armored figure descending from the ceiling into a pool of bare breasted women blowing bubbles. Tannhäuser appeared from the bottom of the pool, as Venus presented herself on a raised bench facing him as if she was on a pedestal. The pilgrims were sinners burning in hellish red flames and descending into the abyss rather than departing for Rome.

The entrance of the guests in Act 2 was well executed with the guests dressed in colorful medieval costume complete, with Tannhäuser and his fellow knights wearing armor. As Tannhäuser’s disruptive singing and ranting escalated, the platform rose up tall over him, the knights crushing him until Elisabeth’s intervention. The act ended with the rousing chorus towering over the stage and audience and numerous knights hanging from the ceiling.

The third act was the least effective with beds for chorus members dressed in white hospital robes taking up most of the stage. Elisabeth was present through the overture, with Wolfram in the back, biding his time. As Elisabeth wandered around the beds seeking Tannhäuser, Wolfram began to chase her. The two ended up singing their respective arias hunched on the side of the front stage, which was a missing opportunity to showcase the beauty and purity of their arias. Or was it intentional? Did the director want us to realize that platonic love was an imaginary hallucination not deserving of special staging?

The musical performance got off to a bit of a slow start in Act 1 as the two leads searched their way. Andeas Schager’s large clarion tenor was at times a bit too sonorous and his singing lacked nuance as Tannhäuser expressed his conflict between Venus’ sensual world and the ordinary world of his fellow humans. For Emma Bell, the high tessitura of Venus’ music proved a challenge early on. The chorus of pilgrims had some uncoordinated moments. Matters improved with the strong vocal performance of Albert Pesendorfer as the Landgraf. His tall stature and imposing bass was a rock of the evening, although his Landgraf was one-dimensional and unsympathetic, with nothing but brutality towards Elisabeth and Tannhäuser. Pesendorfer’s even and mellow dark voice was a delight to the ears.

Both Schager and Bell settled into their roles by Act 2, and from there on their performance was thrilling and magical. Bell’s entrance aria was sung with restrained but gleaming beauty, and her duet with Schager showed off their glorious top. Schager acted the part of a rebellious and self-absorbed knight with natural abandon, and in his arrogance towards his friends and his remorse towards Elisabeth, he showed off not only his bright and penetrating tenor but also his more subtle and expressive flourishes.

Despite the interference of hospital beds, the third act was the musical highlight with Schager’s Roman Narrative, Bell’s plea to the Virgin, and Markus Brück’s eloquent aria of the Evening Star. The chorus was a strong ingredient to the success of a rousing evening. Conductor Michael Boder led a straightforward but effective reading of the Dresden version of the score with strong performance from the strings and woodwinds.

Ako Imamura | 12 novembre 2017

forumopera.com

Passage en force

En regroupant quelques opéras de Wagner sur deux week-ends d’automne et en intitulant cela « les week-ends Wagner » la Deutsche Oper Berlin est sûre de faire salle comble car, bien qu’il s’agisse de productions déjà éprouvées, c’est de toute l’Europe que les amateurs convergent vers la capitale allemande pour assister, si possible, à l’ensemble de ces ces soirées à thème.

Cette mise en scène de Tannhäuser par Kirsten Harms a déjà donné lieu à un compte-rendu en 2015. Depuis lors, elle n’a rien perdu en légèreté ni en transparence. Le remarquable travail de Bernd Damovsky sur la lumière confère à certains tableaux des apparences de vitraux d’autant que la vision de l’enfer du Vénusberg est traduite en véritable image d’Epinal : corps dénudés qui se tordent dans les flammes d’un brasier.

C’est cependant par son intensité sonore que la soirée a retenu notre attention. La performance d’Andreas Schager peut être qualifiée de fortissimo. Très investi dans le rôle, le ténor autrichien joue un Tannhäuser déchiré et provocateur. Sa voix puissante et tranchante ne connait ni la fatigue… ni la nuance ! Il faut noter que ses tentatives pour chanter mezza-voce se traduisent par l’apparition d’un discret vibrato irrégulier et désagréable auquel il remédie aussitôt par le forte.

Emma Bell incarne avec talent cette femme-Janus, tantôt Vénus-concupiscente, tantôt Elisabeth-rédemptrice, en jouant principalement avec ses cheveux, soit lâchés « à la Mélisande », soit sagement ramassés en chignon. Vocalement très convaincante, elle soutient l’épreuve de force que lui impose son partenaire tandis que ses grands airs solo lui permettent de présenter toute la palette de nuances et de couleurs qui caractérise une grande voix.

C’est également un grand moment de chant et d’interprétation que nous offre Markus Brück en Wolfram. Sa romance à l’étoile est chantée à la perfection alors que ses autres interventions, marquées par plus de spontanéité ou de colère, rendent le personnage très attachant. Albert Pesendorfer campe un Hermann vocalement pénétrant mais ne nous convainc pas par son interprétation souvent désincarnée. Clemens Bieber (Walther) et Seth Carico (Biterolf) paraissent en retrait sur ce plateau superlatif et peinent à tirer leur épingle du jeu.

Sous la direction de Michael Boder, les chœurs et l’orchestre de la Deutsche Oper Berlin présentent la partition sous ses aspects les plus brillants et les plus étincelants. L’amplitude sonore qui règne sur le plateau leur permet tous les excès. A croire que les différents protagonistes de cette soirée se sont également livrés à un tournoi…

Thierry Bonal | 11 Novembre 2017

Rating
(6/10)
User Rating
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Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 413 MByte (MP3)
Remarks
In-house recording
A production by Kirsten Harms (2007)