by Jessica WELDHEN
‘Tannhäuser’ is undoubtedly one of Richard Wagner’s most symbolic works, and it’s easy to see why. The opera fills three acts with its powerful, edgy plot, based on the legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg in 13th century medieval Germany.
The minstrel Tannhäuser finds himself entering a contest of love songs in order to regain the hand and heart of the beautiful Elisabeth, but with his soul possessed by Venus, Tannhäuser’s performance shocks rather than pleases the audience. He undertakes a pilgrimage to Rome to seek forgiveness, but his failure to return a few months later proves too much for Elisabeth, who soon dies. When he finally does return, the sight of her funeral procession causes Tannhäuser to collapse and die by her side.
Although full of tension and conflict, it’s nonetheless a romantic opera, with a compelling story arching from confrontation to penance and redemption through love. There’s a light comic touch throughout, but don’t underestimate the powerful storyline – such a combination makes for a great performance!