Tannhäuser and the Singers' Contest at Wartburg

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

Information on the piece

Romantic opera in three acts
First performed on 19th October, 1845 in Dresden
Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 30th November 2008

4 hrs / 2 intervals

In German with German and English surtitles

Introduction (in German language): 45 minutes before beginning; Rang-Foyer

recommended from 16 years
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About the performance

About the work
Repelled by the dispassion of the Wartburg society of minnesingers, Tannhäuser, a singer-knight, removes to the interior of the Venusberg in search of fulfilment. Eventually his longing for Elisabeth leads him to leave again. Back at the Wartburg castle, Tannhäuser takes part in a singing contest whose theme is the nature of love, but when he sings that love is ideally about sensual satisfaction, he is cast out and sent to Rome to seek papal absolution. He returns from Rome without the hoped-for indulgence and resolves to return to the Venusberg. Then a miracle occurs and he finds redemption after all.

Of all Richard Wagner’s operas, this is arguably the one most closely associated with the composer’s own biography and his conception of himself as an artist. The tale of the song contest in the Wartburg castle contains all the themes common to Romantic conflict in art: the quest for social acceptance on the one hand pitted against a questioning of conventions on the other; the search for sensual fulfilment – and its irreconcilability with an idealised, de-sexualised concept of womanhood; and not least the conflict between self-expression in life as in art and the guilt engendered by this egomania.

About the production
In her production for the Deutsche Oper Berlin Kristen Harms focuses on the complicated relationship between Tannhäuser and Elisabeth, a young Thuringian noblewoman, who represents the ideal of pure, pristine love. Harms sees TANNHÄUSER as “a tale of two people, each with two souls in their breast”. This accounts for her casting of a single singer to play both Elisabeth and Venus, who fuse at the end of the opera into a single person, one who has found redemption. As for Tannhäuser, Harms presents him and his mild-mannered friend Wolfram von Eschenbach as two character sides of the same coin.

By the same token the Venusberg, Tannhäuser’s abode at the start of the opera, is deemed by Harms to be “not a den of vice but a realm in which wish, insistence and desire are interwoven in a knot of libidinous fulfilment.” The story is told against a backdrop of tableaux that draw on illustrations found in texts of the High Middle Ages yet also incorporate a touchstone to the present day.

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Der Ring des Nibelungen – Götterdämmerung


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Advents-Verlosung: Das 2. Fensterchen

In today's Advent calendar window, we are giving away 3 DVDs of "Der Schatzgräber" - an opera in a prelude, four acts and a postlude by Franz Schreker. If you would like to win one of the three DVDs, please send an e-mail today with the subject "The 2nd window" to advent@deutscheoperberlin.de.

DER SCHATZGRÄBER (THE TREASURE HUNTER) by Franz Schreker was a triumph at its world premiere in Frankfurt in 1920 and went on to play 44 times at assorted venues over the next five years. It then fell victim to a shifting zeitgeist and slipped from opera-house programmes, with a National Socialist ban on performances sealing its demise. Even after 1945 the Schreker revival was a long time coming – and THE TREASURE HUNTER has not featured prominently in the renaissance.

As with the vast majority of Schreker’s libretti, the story of Els and Elis explores the relationship between fantasy and reality, between art and life. Soulmates in the sense that they are both at the mercy of the king’s disposition, Els and Elis set off in search of different treasures. Elis, the minstrel, uses his magic lute to locate a stash of jewels and do humanity a good turn. Els, an innkeeper’s daughter who has grown up motherless in a tough, male-chauvinist world, becomes a liar, cheat and murderess in pursuit of her goal, tasking her suitors to steal the queen’s jewels and then having them killed once they have returned with the haul of treasure. Yet even with the gold in their possession, the pair are not content, and so, true to form, Schreker turns his attention to the theme of yearning per se, which is the actual “treasure” that the composer is interested in, “a dream of happiness and redemption”. Elis and Els are caught up in a swirl of dreams, memories, premonitions, songs and music. Their stories take on a dreamlike quality in a world beset by greed, murder and emotional inconstancy. For Franz Schreker the path to redemption could only be via art. Composed during the turmoil of the First World War, the TREASURE HUNTER score amounts to Schreker’s personal confession of artistic faith, executed in florid strokes of late-Romantic musical colour.

Conductor Marc Albrecht; Staging Christof Loy; Set design Johannes Leiacker; Costume design Barbara Drosihn; With Tuomas Pursio, Doke Pauwels, Clemens Bieber, Michael Adams, Joel Allison, Michael Laurenz, Thomas Johannes Mayer, Seth Carico, Daniel Johansson, Gideon Poppe, Stephen Bronk, Elisabet Strid, Patrick Cook, Tyler Zimmerman a. o.; Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin

Closing date: 2 December 2023, the winners will be informed by email on 4 December 2023. The DVDs will then be sent by post. Legal recourse is excluded.