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Richard Wagner



MARIUS VLAD BUDOIU  - Tannhäuser  
CARMEN GURBAN  - Elisabeta  
FLORIN ESTEFAN   - Wolfram von Eschenbach  
IULIA MERCA  - Venus  
SERGIU COLTAN (invitat)  - Walther von der Vogelweide  
TIBERIU SZASZ (invitat)  - Heinrich der Schreiber  
BOGDAN NISTOR  - Biterolf  

HÓRVATH JÓZSEF  - conductor  

Tannhauser has had the not unamusing distinction of receiving both accolades and damnation from most surprising directions. There was, for example, Vienna's most influential critic, Eduard Hanslick, who bas gained an immortal infamy in the hearts of thousands of Wagnerians for acute and devastating analyses of Wagner which they have not read. This is what Wagner's archfoe had, in part, to say about Tannhauser when it was a brand-new show:

"I am of the fiirm opinion that it is the finest thing achieved in grand opera in at least twelve years... Richard Wagner is, I am convinced, the greatest dramatic talent among all contemporary composers."


This from the last man on earth to be called a Wagner-worshiper. But the greatest Wagner-worshiper of them all utterly disagreed. "Meine schlechteste Oper" (my worst opera) is how the composer himself dismissed it late in life.

Less well equipped critics than Hanslick and Wagner also expressed widely divergent opinions. When the opera was first performed in Paris, Wagner gladly (and brilliantly) supplied a ballet, for that was a sine qua non of opera nights in the reign of the good Emperor Napoleon III. Unfortunately, the only conceivable spot for the interpolation was in the opening scene, which came much too early for the habits of the young dandies of the Jockey Club; and as these gay blades patronized tbe opera largely to applaud the ballet girls, they organized a young riot of protest. At the second and third performances their antics were so preposterous that Wagner withdrew the work. But these gentlemen's form of criticism was single-minded (if simple-minded) and, in one respect at least, thoroughly honorable. Wagner himself tells, in his memoirs, of one young fellow who, on being reprimanded for his behavior, riposted:

"Que voulez-vous? I am myself beginning to like the music. But you see, a man must keep his word. If you will excuse me, I shall return to my work again."



und der Sangerkrieg auf dem Wartburg
(Tannhauser and the Song Contest at the Wartburg)

Opera in three acts by Richard Wagner with
libretto in German by the composer based on a
legend related in the medieval German poem
Der Sitngerkrieg

HERMANN, Landgrave of  Thuringia

Knights and Minnesingers:




ELISABETH, niece of Hermann



Time: 13th century

Place: Thuringia, near Eisenach

First perfomance at Dresden, October 19, 1845

In the Venusberg by John Collier, 1901: a gilded setting that is distinctly Italian quattrocento.


HERMANN: Bass. Landgrave of Thuringia, leader of the knights and Minnesingers, whom Tannhauser has left in order to live with Venus. Hermann is the uncle of Elisabeth, whom he offers in marriage to the winner of the song contest in the hall of the Wartburg. Created (1845) by Wilhelm Georg Dettmer.

HEZNKICH TANNHAUSER: Tenor. A knight who has been lured away from the Wartburg by the beautiful Venus. He is now tired of the eternal debauchery in the Venusberg and would like to return to normal life, forgiven for his sin of giving in to temptation. The Landgrave and other Minnesingers whom he left, pass by and recognize him. They tell him that the Landgrave's шесе, Elisabeth, has been unhappy since his departure and he agrees to return with them and take part in a singing contest, for which the prize will be Elisabeth's hand in marriage. The other contestants sing of the moral aspects of love, but Tannhauser, remembering life at the Venusberg, sings of the sensual pleasures he experienced with Venus. The other knights threaten him with their swords, but Elisabeth steps between them. The Landgrave advises him to follow the pilgrims to Rome and beg forgiveness from the Pope. Elisabeth awaits his return, but he does not come with the other returning pilgrims and, exhausted, she prepares to die, while Wolfram waits outside to greet Tannhauser. He arrives, tired and un- happy—the Pope has refused him absolution and he sees no alternative but to return to Venus. Wolfram tells him how Elisabeth prayed for him. Her funeral procession passes, and Tannhauser falls down on her coffin and dies. Arias: Ha, jetzt erkenne ich sie wieder die schone Welt ('Ha, now again I see the beautiful world'); duet (with Elisabeth): Gepriesen sei die Stunde ('Blessed hour of meeting'); Inbrunst im Herzen ('The heat within my heart'-Tannhauser's Narration). Created (1845) by Joseph Tichatschek.

Wagner: Tannhäuser - Inbrunst im Herzen (Római elbeszélés) - János Bándi

Tannhäuser, painting by Gabriel von Max (c. 1878)

ELISABETH: Soprano. Niece of the Landgrave. She and Tannhauser have been in love, but he has been enticed away by Venus and Elisabeth longs for his return. He comes back to take part in the annual song contest and the Landgrave, confident that Tannhauser will win, offers Elisabeth's hand as the prize. To everyone's horror and disgust, Tannhduser, influenced by his bacchanalian life with Venus, sings of the sensual aspects of love and the other knights threaten to kill him. Elisabeth throws herself in front of Tannhauser, prepared to sacrifice herself for him. Tannhauser is sent to Rome to seek absolution and Elisabeth waits for his return. Feeling there is no hope of his coining back, she dies shortly before he arrives. In answer to Wolfram's prayer, her soul gives Tannhauser the absolution he craves and he falls across her coffin and dies. Aria: Dich, teure Halle, grusse'ich wieder... ('Dear Hall of Song, I greet you again'); Allmaicht'ge Jungfrau, hor' mein Flehen! ('Almighty Virgin, hear my pleading!'). Created (1845) by Johanna Wagner.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: Wagner - Tannhäuser, 'Dich, teure Halle'

VENUS: Soprano. The goddess who lures Tannhauser to the grotto in her mountain (the Venusberg), where he enjoys the perpetual orgy—for a short while. When he has had enough and wants to return to his normal hunan life, whatever its drawbacks, Venus is forious and warns him that one day he will return and beg to be taken back. Created (1845) by Wilhelmine Schroder-Devrient.

Knights and Minnesingers:


A YOUNG SHEPHERD: Soprano. Thivesti role. He sings of the coming of spring. As the pilgrims pass on their way to Rome,he fails to his knees in prayer. Aria: Frau Holda kam aus dem Berg hervor ('Dame Holda came near from the hill’一Holda was the goddess of spring). Creator (1845) unknown.

René Kollo - Richard Wagner Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) "Mit Gewitter Und Sturm"




This is one of the most popular pieces ever written for "pops" concerts. It is based partly on the Pilgrim's Chorus, with which it opens and closes, and partly on the contrasting music of the orgies in the court of Venus. It thus summarizes the theme of the whole story—the battle of sacred and profane love foi the soul of the hero, Tannhauser.

Act 1

In the original, or "Dresden," version of the opera, the overture comes to a full close. In the "Paris" version, which was mounted sixteen years later, the curtain rises without interruption for applause, on a scene of great voluptuousness in the court of Venus—a scene that Wagner revidsed extensively for the occasion, bringing to it the musical powers greatly matured through the composition, in the intervening уеаrs, of Lohengrin, over half of the Ring cycle, and Tristan und Isolde. This court of Venus had its being in the Thuringian mountains, where the spring goddess, Holda, was supposed to reign. The poetry of mythology, however, quite rightly disregards the mundane logic of historians, and Holda is easily equated with Venus, the goddess of love.

At the moment, with the amiably distracting assistance of sirens, naiads, nymphs and bacchantes, she as trying to make things attractive foe Heinrich Tannhauser, a more or less historical German knight who was also a singer and composer. Henry has deserted the court of Landgrave Hermann, ruler of Thuringia, to spend some time at the more glamorous spot he is inhabiting now. But he has grown tired of the pagan rites and tells the goddess so. Despite all her pleadings, Tannhauser calls on Mary, and the whole wicked court vanishes.

The scene is transformed at once into the valley of the Wartburg. Tannhauser listens to a shepherd boy sing sweetly and innocently (oddly enough, about the goddess Holda, who, in his mythology, is a good girl), and he greets a group of pilgrims chanting on their way to Rome. From the distance, then, comes the sound of hunting horns, and presently Tannhauser is cordially welcomed by the Landgrave himself and a party of hunters, all old friends. They urge him to return, for they miss bis singing. At first he refuses. Then his particular old friend and comrade-in-arms-and-song Wolfram tells him that the Landgrave's daughter Elisabeth has been brokenhearted since his departure. In a noble melody Wolfram urges Tannhauser to return, and he is joined in these hospitable sentiments by the Landgrave himself and all the knights. Warmed by this reception—and by the thought of the beloved Elisabeth —Tannhauser is won over, and the act closes with hunting calls as the whole party leaves for the castle of the Wartburg.

Wagner - Tannhäuser - Overture - Klaus Tennstedt - London Philharmonic

Richard Wagner -Tannhäuser - Bayreuth, 1978

Elisabeth - Gwyneth Jones
Venus - Gwyneth Jones
Landgraf - Hermann Hans Sotin
Tannhäuser - Spas Wenkoff
Wolfram von Eschenbach - Bernd Weikl
Walther von der Vogelweide - Robert Schunk
Biterolf - Franz Mazura
Heinrich der Schreiber - John Pickering
Reinmar von Zweter - Heinz Feldhoff

Act 2

The second act takes place in the magnificent Hall of the Minstrels, in the Wartburg. Elisabeth has long kept away from the festivals of song held here. After a short prelude, she returns to the hall and rapturously greets it in a brilliant aria (Dich, theure Hall'). The reason she has returned is that Tannhauser, the greatest of the singers, is once more in the court. Soon he is brought in by Wolfram, who discreetly retires. She tells Tannhauser modestly but frankly how be has been missed, and the two unite in a rapturous duet over their reunion.

Then, enter the Landgrave. He informs Elisabeth that there will be a tournament of song, tbat she shall crown the winner, and that her hand will go with the prize. Trumpet calls are beard off-stage, and to the familiar "March from Tannhauser" the entire court assembles for the tournament of song. It turns out to be a rather more exciting event than most singing contests. Wolfram begins, conservatively praising a pure and holy love. Tannhauser—recently returned from that great expert on love, Venus—rashly tells Wolfram he does not know what be is talking about. Biterolf, another contestant, takes up the argument on Wolfram7s side. Thereupon Tannhauser becomes even more violent. To the consternation of everyone, he takes up his harp and sings frankly and vigorously in praise of carnal love. Everyone is deeply shocked. The knights take out their swords to attack the profaner of the Hall; the women start to leave in disorder and suddenly Elisabeth intervenes. Throwing herself before her beloved, she begs for his forgiveness. The Landgrave consents, provided Tannhauser makes a pilgrimage to Rome to get a pardon from the Pope. Just at that moment a group of pilgrims conveniently passes by. Filled with contrition, Tannhauser rushes out to join them.

Act 3

The prelude describes, mournfully enough, our hero's unhappy pilgrimage to Rome. Elisabeth has been sadly awaiting his return; and at a roadside shrine in the valley of the Wartburg, she silently prays for him as thе faithful Wolfram watches and muses over her. In the distance we heat a band of pilgrims approaching. They sing the famous Pilgrims' Chorus, and as they pass by the shrine, Elisabetih eagerly searches for her beloved Tannhauser. He is not to be found among them; and when the pilgrims have departed, she kneels once more to pray to the Virgin Mary that Tannhauser may yet be saved-and that she herself may leave this unhappy earth. When she arises, Wolfram wishes to accompany her home, but Elisabeth quietly refuses the kind offer: she hopes, now, only to die.

Dusk is gathering; the evening star comes out; and Wolfram sings the famous aria to that heavenly body, accompanying himself on his harp. Now, in the semi-darkness, appears the wretched figure of Tannhauser. Bitterly he says that he is on his way again to the Venusburg. He recites to Wolfram the long narrative of his journey to Rome. The hardships bad been almost incredible; and when be reached the Pope, he bad been told there was no forgiveness—not till the staff the Pope held in his hand should burst into bloom. Reasonably enough, Таnnhauser considers this unnatural phenomenon very unlikely. He calls upon the goddess Venus, who appears in the distance, singing seductive music and surrounded by her court of bacchantes. Desperately Wolfram tries to restrain his friend and finally succeeds only through telling him that one angel prays for his soul. Her name is "Elisabeth." Just as Tannhauser is at last won over again, a cortege passes by bearing the body of Elisabeth, who has at last found the rest she so earnestly desired. Completely broken, Tannhauser sinks down beside her bier.

The opera closes ironically, but on a joyous tone. A chorus of young pilgrims enters bringing with them the latest miracle from Rome. It is the Pope's staff, which has burst into bloom. God has forgiven the errant Tannhauser. 

Legend of Tannhauser

Tannhäuser (German: [ˈtanhɔʏ̯zɐ]; Middle High German: Tanhûser) was a German Minnesinger and poet. Historically, his biography is obscure beyond the poetry, which dates between 1245 and 1265.


Life and work
Tradition has it, that he presumed familial lineage with the old Swabian nobles, the Lords of Thannhausen, residents in their castle at Tannhausen near Ellwangen and ministeriales of the Counts of Oettingen. More likely, however, is a descent from the Tanhusen family of Imperial ministeriales, documented in various 13th century sources, with their residence in the area of Neumarkt in the Bavarian Nordgau.


The illustrated Codex Manesse mansucript (about 1300–1340) depicts him clad in the Teutonic Order habit, suggesting he might have fought in the Sixth Crusade led by Emperor Frederick II in 1228/29. For a while, Tannhäuser was an active courtier at the court of the Austrian duke Frederick the Warlike, who ruled from 1230 to 1246. Frederick was the last of the Babenberg dukes; upon his death in the Battle of the Leitha River, Tannhäuser left the Vienna court.

Tannhäuser was a proponent of the leich (lai) style of minnesang and dance-song poetry. As literature, his poems parody the traditional genre with irony and hyperbole, somewhat similar to later commercium songs. However, his Bußlied (Poem on Atonement) is unusual, given the eroticism of the remaining Codex Manesse.

Tannhäuser,  from the Codex Manesse
(about 1300).

Tannhauser legend.
Based on his Bußlied, Tannhäuser became the subject of a legendary account. It makes Tannhäuser a knight and poet who found the Venusberg, the subterranean home of Venus, and spent a year there worshipping the goddess. After leaving the Venusberg, Tannhäuser is filled with remorse, and travels to Rome to ask Pope Urban IV (d. 1264) if it is possible to be absolved of his sins. Urban replies that forgiveness is as impossible as it would be for his papal staff to blossom. Three days after Tannhäuser's departure Urban's staff blooms with flowers; messengers are sent to retrieve the knight, but he has already returned to Venusberg, never to be seen again.


The Tannhauser legend has been interpreted as a traditional folk tale which has been subjected to Christianization where the familiar story of the seduction of a human being by an elf or fairy leads to the delights of the fairy-realm but later the longing for his earthly home is overwhelming. His desire is granted, but he is not happy, and in the end returns to the fairy-land.

Handed down orally, the Venusberg myth was first attested by the French writer Antoine de la Sale about 1430 and propagated in ballads from 1450. It was included in the Des Knaben Wunderhorn folksong collection by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim in 1806 and adopted by Ludwig Tieck (Der getreue Eckart und der Tannhäuser, 1799) and Heinrich Heine (1836).

The legend was made famous in modern times through Richard Wagner's three-act opera Tannhäuser completed in 1845, referring to both the Tannhauser legend and the epic of the Sängerkrieg at Wartburg Castle. Aubrey Beardsley started to write an erotic treatment of the legend which was never to be finished due to his illness; the first parts of it were published in The Savoy and later issued in book form by Leonard Smithers with the title Under the Hill. In 1907, the original manuscript was published and entitled The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser.


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