Richard Wagner – Tannhäuser – act 1^ part 1

«Tannhäuser», german opera in three acts. Music and text by Richard Wagner (1813-1883).
Picture: Tannhauser in the Venusberg.

Tannhäuser («Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg») is an opera in three acts based on the two germanic legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg; the story centres on the struggle between sacred and profane love, and redemption through love. The libretto of «Tannhäuser» combines the mythological elements of german opera and the medieval history of French Grand Opera; Wagner brings these two together by constructing a plot involving the 14th century Minnesingers and the myth of Venus and her realm of Venusberg. Both the historical and mythological are united in Tannhäuser’s character, as he was a historical poet composer, but little is known about his life other than myths that surround him. Furthermore, half of the opera takes place in a historical setting (Wartburg, in Eisenach), and the other half takes place in the mythological Venusberg.
With «Tannhäuser», as with the previous «Der Fliegende hollander», Wagner brings german romantic opera to its extreme limits: in these works he breaks the traditional plan of the scenes with arias, duets, chor and he grants the text all its centrality, but without arriving yet to that fusion between words and music which he realizes in «Der Ring des Nibelungen». However there are innovations that strengthen the expressive power of music: reflecting the polarity of the social reality ( the conservative Wartburg is characterized by an archaic music, while the musical universe of Venusberg is more evolved), the associative use of tonality and leitmotifs.

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