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English National Opera Guide : Wagner : Tannhäuser (1988)

– tekijä: English National Opera, Nicholas John (Series Editor), Richard Wagner (Librettist)

Muut tekijät: Carolyn Abbate (Avustaja), Mike Ashman (Avustaja), Rodney Blumer (Kääntäjä), Timothy McFarland (Avustaja), Stewart Spencer (Avustaja)

Sarjat: English National Opera Guide (39)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
501412,414 (3.17)2
The English National Opera Guides were originally conceived in partnership with the English National Opera and edited by Nicholas John, the ENO's dramaturg, who died tragically in an accident in the Alps. Most of the guides are devoted to a single opera, which is described in detail--with many articles that cover its history and information about the composer and his times. The complete libretto is included in both the original language and in a modern singing translation--except where the opera was written in English. Each has a thematic guide to the most important musical themes in musical notation and each guide is lavishly illustrated. They also contain a bibliography and a discography which is updated at each reprint. The ENO guides are widely regarded as the best series of their kind and excellent value.… (lisätietoja)
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Richard Wagner

Tannhäuser

English National Opera 39

Calder, Paperback, 1988.

8vo. 96 pp.

First published, 1988.

Contents

List of Illustrations

‘Tannhäuser’ – an Obsession Mike Ashman
Tannhusaere, Danheüser and Tannhäuser Stewart Spencer
Wagner’s Most Medieval Opera Timothy McFarland
Orpheus and the Underworld: The Music of Wagner’s ‘Tannhäuser’ Carolyn Abbate

Thematic Guide

‘Tannhäuser’ poem by Richard Wagner
‘Tannhäuser’ English translation by Rodney Blumer

Act One
Act Two
Act Three

Discography Robert Seeley
Bibliography Stewart Spencer
Contributors

======================================================

The hideousness of the ENO covers never ceases to amaze me!

Fortunately for the reader, the contents are nothing like the cover. All essays are well-written discourses by experienced Wagnerians with lots of interesting points. There is some repetition between them, but not much. The libretto is complete, the illustrations pleasant, and the bibliography annotated. Only the discography falls short, but that’s usual for the series. It is nice to see Tannhäuser, an elusive opera popular for its music and despite its patchy libretto, treated as a flawed masterpiece of much deeper philosophical significance than generally recognised.

Mr Ashman is right to call the opera “an obsession”. Wagner was always passionate about his works, but he was doubly so about Tannhäuser. It is customary to speak of two versions, one from Dresden (1845) and one from Paris (1861). As Mr Ashman demonstrates, this is rather a gross oversimplification. Wagner made numerous changes in the few years after the Dresden premiere in 1845; thirty years later, he was still making alterations for a production in Vienna. For Paris in 1861, he not only changed the overture, as even concert goers with no taste for opera know, but introduced a host of other changes in his post-Tristan idiom. Mr Ashman goes as far as saying that none of the three Paris nights had the same musical text as the other two. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Wagner never finished Tannhäuser: it was merely abandoned at his death in 1883.

Why so much trouble over an early and relatively immature work? Why this obsession? Mr Ashman has some compelling arguments. For one thing, Wagner recognised that Tannhäuser was “something of a lexicon of ideas, both musical and dramatic, that were to inform his future output.” It contains, for instance, a song contest, a curse, a Liebestod, magic, redemption, renunciation. No need to labour the parallels with Wagner’s later works, is there? For another thing, Wagner used Tannhäuser as “a working model to gauge his own progress in the craft of writing music drama.” He wrote more about Tannhäuser than about any other of his works, sometimes going as far as advising the conductor to read the libretto, the producer to look at the score, and the two of them to work together as a team. He even suggested that the cast should do a preliminary reading of the libretto (the poem, he called it) as if it were a spoken play!

Stewart Spencer is an acclaimed translator from German, including “Wagnerisch”, and an erudite guide to medieval Teutonic legend and literature. He provides plenty of interesting background about the semi-legendary foundations of Wagner’s opera. It seems that Tannhusaere was a mid-13th century poet from the village of Thannhausen. He may or may not have taken part in the Crusades. Sixteen poems in a 14th-century manuscript are just about the only proof of his existence. He may or may not be the same person who appeared nearly two centuries later (1515) in Lied von dem Danheüser, a ballad that tells of a hero who abandoned the erotic pleasures of Venusberg and journeyed to Rome in search of absolution but then, having been rejected by the Pope, returned to Venus and her charms. It seems that in medieval times Venusberg was seriously thought to exist and many adventures searched for it all over Europe, most notably in Monte della Sibilla in the central Apennines.

Mr McFarland, another gentleman remarkably well-versed in German history and literature, goes into further detail about the numerous medieval sources and how Wagner, an underrated dramatist to the present day, fashioned an effective operatic story from them. It seems that he mixed several bits of legend and history (it’s not easy to separate them), among them one about the minstrel torn between Venusberg and Rome, another one about a saintly lady who embraced religious poverty outside the convent, and a third one about a song contest in the court of Hermann I of Thuringia from the early 13th century. He had plenty of contemporary sources, some of which he later concealed, by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Heine and the scholar Ludwig Bechstein, but that hardly diminishes his originality as a playwright. Mr McFarland is particularly perceptive on Saint Elisabeth, the Hungarian princess and saint of Wartburg who inspired one of Liszt’s mighty oratorios. Wagner’s Elisabeth shares little more than the name with her illustrious namesake, but he was no doubt influenced by her moving story. He needed a princess and a saint to unify the two worlds, Venusberg and Thuringia, around which he had built two subplots. Tannhäuser was not enough.

Taken together, the essays by Messrs Spencer and McFarland are true cornucopia of fascinating medievalism and Wagneriana. Not only do they provide a crash course in the fact and fiction around the name of Tannhäuser, but they give substantial insight into Wagner’s eclectic mind and working methods.

The musical analysis by Carolyn Abbate is by far the longest essay in the book. I must say its length is not proportional to its value, at least the part that didn’t fly way over my head. The lay reader must make the usual allowances for cryptic stuff like “the key of the chorus, G major, flashes across the F# dominant pedal as an unexpected resolution that is neither false nor illogical.” On the whole, Ms Abbate’s commentary, even when read (as it should be) after one is reasonably familiar with the music and the text, is not a rewarding read as far as I’m concerned. She has some reasonably useful things to say about Tannhäuser’s praise for Venus which is split between the first two acts, but it’s nothing you can’t hear in the music. Likewise with the leitmotivs which function almost exclusively as recollection of Tannhäuser’s mind, that is much more primitively than in Wagner’s later works, say Der Ring des Nibelungen. Even a cursory comparison of highlights can convince the lay Wagnerian in the truth of this statement.

The libretto is typically complete and printed close to Wagner’s original verse layout. It contains a nice bonus between its title page and first lines. This is “The Ballad of Tannhäuser” (i.e. “Lied von dem Danheüser” mentioned above), translated by one J. W. Thomas and printed on two pages in two columns (English+German). More than half of it is occupied by the quarrel between our knight and Venus, a classic example of lovers quarreling indeed. The Pope appears rather more briefly, but he has enough time to dash our knight’s hopes of divine consolation: “This [dry and dead staff] shall have leaves ere you receive the grace of God”. This was enough for our knight to return to Venusberg. Three days later, the Pope’s staff did grow leaves. After the initial shock wore off, the popish prig swiftly send envoys to bring Tannhäuser back, but it was too late to save the knight from the tight embrace of Venus. ( )
1 ääni Waldstein | Sep 28, 2016 |
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» Lisää muita tekijöitä

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
English National Operaensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
John, NicholasSeries Editorpäätekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Wagner, RichardLibrettistpäätekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Abbate, CarolynAvustajamuu tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Ashman, MikeAvustajamuu tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Blumer, RodneyKääntäjämuu tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
McFarland, TimothyAvustajamuu tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Spencer, StewartAvustajamuu tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu

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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

The English National Opera Guides were originally conceived in partnership with the English National Opera and edited by Nicholas John, the ENO's dramaturg, who died tragically in an accident in the Alps. Most of the guides are devoted to a single opera, which is described in detail--with many articles that cover its history and information about the composer and his times. The complete libretto is included in both the original language and in a modern singing translation--except where the opera was written in English. Each has a thematic guide to the most important musical themes in musical notation and each guide is lavishly illustrated. They also contain a bibliography and a discography which is updated at each reprint. The ENO guides are widely regarded as the best series of their kind and excellent value.

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