Monday, February 26, 2007

Culture: Countdown to Tannhauser - The LA Times Review

I haven't seen it yet but the LA Opera opening night premier of Tannhauser took place this past Saturday and LA Times critic Mark Swed has his report. Excerpt:
In "Tannhauser," the second of his 10 mature operas and presented for the first time by Los Angeles Opera Saturday night, Wagner finds no sanction between love and lust. For sex, Tannhauser, a troubadour, sinks into the arms of the goddess of love, Venus, in her 24/7 orgy realm. For salvation, he returns to strait-laced society of the virginal Elizabeth and seeks the pope's forgiveness.
........
For its new production by Ian Judge, Los Angeles Opera - ever eager to seem an adjunct of Hollywood - advertises raunchiness, not redemption. Nudity is promised and delivered in quantity onto the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage.
.........
After half an hour of silly sex, a lot of redemption is required. Amazingly, the makeshift production achieves it.

.... it is Schnitzer's Elizabeth who, by supplying the warmth and ardor missing from Venus, illuminates this production. Martin Gantner is an appealing Wolfram, the one knight who doesn't turn against Tannhäuser, and his song to the evening star, given a slow and stately tempo by Conlon, is moving. Rodrick Dixon makes Walther von der Vogelwiede the most fervent troubadour. Franz Josef Selig is a capably rigid Heinrich, Elizabeth's uncle.
........
"Tannhauser," which usually starts wonderfully and ends drearily, did just the opposite Saturday night. Forget the ads. Los Angeles Opera's "Tannhauser" redeems itself Wagner's way, not Hollywood's. Whether you consider that triumph or tragedy may depend upon which side of town you live.
So I guess Swed has given it a sort of a thumbs up?

My review will be up when I see the opera toward the end of its production run in a few weeks.

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