[Met Performance] CID:351081
Tannhäuser {464} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/18/2004.

(Debuts: Peter Seiffert, Christopher Kelly, Joshua Kosakoff Kohane, D'Mitri Williams, Jenny Sandler

Metropolitan Opera House
November 18, 2004


Tannhäuser..............Peter Seiffert [Debut]
Elisabeth...............Deborah Voigt
Wolfram.................Thomas Hampson
Venus...................Michelle DeYoung
Hermann.................Kwangchul Youn
Walther.................John Horton Murray
Heinrich................Roy Cornelius Smith
Biterolf................Charles Taylor
Reinmar.................Morris Robinson
Shepherd................Jason Goldberg

Pages: Aiden Bowman, Jesse Dembo, Garrett Eucker, Jason Goldberg, Christopher Kelly [Debut], Joshua Kosakoff Kohane [Debut], Ryan Mandelbaum, D'Mitri Williams [Debut]

Three Graces: Sarah Weber Gallo, Jenny Sandler [Debut], Rachel Schuette

Conductor...............Mark Elder

Production..............Otto Schenk
Set designer............Günther Schneider-Siemssen
Costume designer........Patricia Zipprodt
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler
Choreographer...........Norbert Vesak
Stage Director..........Stephen Pickover

Tannhäuser received eight performances this season.

Production photos of Tannhäuser by Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera.

Review of Fred Cohn in the February 2005 issue of OPERA NEWS

A performance of "Tannhäuser" can easily run aground in the huge, episodic ensemble that ends Act II. The musical logic often gets lost in a soggy mass of sound, making for a very long twenty minutes. Mark Elder, leading the Met's November 18 performance, kept the texture lucid and made finely judged tempo adjustments that made the subsections of the passage fit logically into the whole. His ability to navigate the tricky ensemble was typical of his work all night - nothing flashy; just thoughtful music-making that revealed the structural soundness of Wagner's writing.

It certainly helped that Peter Seiffert, making his house debut, was singing Tannhäuser. The role is usually subject to stopgap casting, so that even if one can hear the heldentenor in this passage, one would just as soon ignore him. Seiffert's singing here was open-throated, clearly projected and accurate, providing the ensemble with the musical center that it so often lacks. All evening long, it was a revelation to hear the role sung with such security and stamina. Seiffert brought the same freshness of voice to the Rome Narrative at the end as he did to the three successive paeans to Venus at the beginning. The voice is not intrinsically beautiful - it betrays a hint of nasality - but it's an instrument of true Wagnerian heft, with easy access to the crucial climactic notes above the staff. Seiffert is fifty. For Met audiences, the bad news is that we've missed the first decades of his career. The good news, though, is that this is no flash in the pan: Seiffert is the rare tenor who possesses not only the physical gifts for Wagner roles but the seasoned knowledge of how to sing them. He sounded, on this night, like he could give us another twenty years or so of accomplished singing.

Deborah Voigt's jubilant "Dich, teure Halle" displayed all her accustomed freedom and fullness of cone. Later on, there were moments when she sounded just a hair under pitch - an occupational hazard, perhaps, in a voice of this size and complexity - and "Allmächter Jungfrau" missed the ultimate degree of inwardness. But the soprano has never seemed more impetuous, more at ease onstage, than in her first Met Elisabeth. Voigt was a compelling figure even with her back to the audience, regally greeting the guests as they entered the Hall of Song. Thomas Hampson brought the concentration of a lieder singer to each of Wolfram's utterances. His baritone has grown and darkened, while losing none of its essential lyrical nature. The Hymn to the Evening Star was a moment of pure poetry.

As Venus, Michelle DeYoung sang with abandon, even when her voice wasn't responding to the demands she placed on it. She looked like Anita Ekberg, circa La Dolce Vita - a wonderfully appropriate image for the Goddess of Love. Kwangchul Youn's bass seemed too fresh for the venerable Landgrave, but it's a gratifying sound nonetheless. The Young Shepherd, usually sung by a lyric soprano, was here taken by Jason Goldberg, a treble, to delightful effect. He shaped phrases with freshness and enthusiasm and reveled in the high Gs that dot the Shepherd's enchanting song.

In 1977, when the Otto Schenk/Günther Schneider-Siemssen production was new, its evocation of the nineteenth century was a revelation. Now it looks more like, well, 1977, and the simulated couplings of Norbert Vesak's Venusburg ballet carry all the erotic charge of a canasta tournament. At least, though, it provides an unobtrusive framework for a distinguished musical presentation of this piece. On this occasion, one could hardly have asked for anything more.

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