Tannhäuser at LA Opera
March 27, 2007
* Notes *
A few weeks before I was to catch the last performance of Tannhäuser in Los Angeles, I received an alarming postcard from the opera warning that viewer discretion was advised as there was nudity, sexual content, and strong language in the production. The bacchanalia was explicit, though watching scrawny ballet dancers prance about in lingerie was not particularly titillating. It was surprising how nonchalant the audience was about the simulated sex scenes in an opera, but they were warned and it did fit the plot. Certainly it was more in keeping with the spirit of the opera than the boring Robert Wilson Parsifal in 2005.
Speaking of boring, the first act was awfully long and not much happened, but it did pick up and I ended up liking the opera over all. The singing competition in Act II was not unlike Die Meistersinger, which I adore, though the end of the act was a bit odd, at least musically. It seemed superfluous, especially when Tannhäuser sings "Nach Rom!" and everyone joins in with another "Nach Rom!" The choral parts in the last act were amazing though.
The orchestra was not together, even under James Conlon, the music director of the Los Angeles Opera. In the title role was Peter Seiffert, who had an annoying amount of vibrato. Lioba Braun was a shrill Venus, which was rather inappropriate. Thankfully, Petra Maria Schnitzer sang well as Elizabeth. She had good volume, enough vibrato but not too much, and good diction. The audience liked Martin Gantner very much, his baritone is pleasing. I believe I last heard him as Guglielmo in Così at the Bavarian State Opera in 2003, and I remember liking his voice then as well.
Gottfried Pilz's set and costumes had a lot of clean lines. I did like how the set turned, which made the scene changes simple. The set remains for all three acts, so in a way it's a bit heavy-handed, the scenes for sacred and profane love are the more or less the same, but with different colors. The thing that irked me most was the neon lighting. Maybe at Venusberg it was fine, but at Wartsburg?
* Tattling *
People were pretty well-behaved, there was some chatter, but it was minor. Mostly they seemed bored, perhaps they were expecting something more exciting since their discretion was advised.