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Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer Screens

Is Every Sin Forgivable?

Review: LOS ANGELES OPERA'S TANNHÄUSER at Home Computer Screens

On October 24, 2021, Los Angeles Opera presented Wagner's Tannhäuser live online for patrons who cannot get to the theater at this time. Director Louise Muller revived the Ian Judge production of the opera which premiered in Salzburg and was first seen in LA in 2007. This year's performances have some truly spectacular singers such as Issachah Savage who sang the long and high-lying role of Tannhäuser. A second live streamed performance will be available from LA Opera on October 27.

According to legend, Tannhäuser was the thirteenth century poet/knight who spent time in the subterranean home of Venus. After leaving, Tannhäuser was filled with remorse, so he made a pilgrimage to Rome and asked Pope Urban IV to absolve his sins. Urban said It would be easier for his papal staff to blossom than for the knight to be forgiven. Three days after Tannhäuser's departure, Urban's staff bloomed with flowers. Messengers were sent to retrieve the knight, but he had already returned to Venusberg and was never seen on earth again.

As Tannhäuser, Issachah Savage was a common man who made a mistake that could not be undone and his plight was always on his head. Savage has a special voice. A secure heldentenor, he can sing full voice up and down his range for a long time without tiring and he is beginning to create believable characters while singing.

Wagner's work has many memorable melodies and even those who see the opera for the first time will find some of it familiar. If you have ever been in a choir, you may well know the Pilgrim's Chorus. Hearing it sung by the more than fifty-member LA Opera chorus accompanied by the one-hundred-forty-five-member LAO orchestra was sheer enchantment.

Ian Judge's stage direction was a realization of the libretto and Scenic Designer Gottfried Pilz's settings were in keeping with that point of view. Pilz's costumes, however, moved the period of the mythical events up to a time within the memory of many patrons. His relatively modern clothing stripped away the clouds of faded remembrance that often contribute to a legend.

Azure Barton's choreography was overtly sexual and its constant attempts at coupling added considerable eroticism to the otherwise soft ambiance of Venusburg. Elizabeth's "teure Halle" was as cool as the Act One scene was hot, while the mens' tempers were even hotter. Chaste love does not work for most people as this legend shows those who will learn from it. Kubiak sang her aria with lyrical effulgence that showed the rare beauty of her sound. The possessor of a large lyric voice, she sang both her arias with smooth legato and total clarity.

Venus, sung by Yulia Matochkina, also sounded more lyric than dramatic and her tones were a balm on her ears. Her costume fit the role and she was not hard on the eyes, either. Lucas Meachem as Wolfram is the character most opera goers associate with themselves. His rendition of "The Evening Star" revealed gorgeous notes buoyed up by the lush accompaniment upon which it floated.

Morris Robinson, Philip Cocorinos, Robert Stahley, Anthony Ciaramitaro, and Patrick Blackwell, together with Meachem, formed a gorgeous ensemble of blended melodic opposition to Tannhäuser's promotion of Venusberg and its pleasures. They put the fleeting enjoyment of the love goddess out of mind and righted the world of the legend even before the flowering of the pope's staff.

Los Angeles Opera's Tannhäuser is a rare gem; memorable, singable music and a thought-provoking plot. See it online October 27 at LA Opera's website for $30.00.

Photos courtesy of LA Opera.


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