Fri | Aug 18, 2017

'Tannhäuser' encore on Sunday

Published:Friday | November 6, 2015 | 11:00 AM
Eva-Maria Westbroek as Elisabeth.

Wagner's Tannhäuser encores this Sunday at the Palace Cineplex and Palace Multiplex.

The Latin Post says Tannhäuser is the ideal introduction and must-see revival for those interested in the transcendent experience to the works and musical greatness of the German composer Richard Wagner.

"Throw in this terrific cast, a conductor at his very best and a production that, despite its age, still holds up and you have a glorious evening for both newcomers and Wagner lovers alike," The Post says.

This is among many gushing reviews of the Met's revival of the opera, conducted by James Levine with headliners Johan Botha and Eva-Maria Westbroek.

Since the launch of Palace Amusement Company's Met Opera Live in HD Series in 2012 Jamaican audiences have been treated to Wagner's Parsifal and Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.

Set in Medieval Germany, Tannhäuser tells the story of a minstrel who has abandoned his home for the pleasures of the Goddess of Love, Venus. However, after spending time with her he yearns to return home to his beloved Elizabeth, who is ignorant of where he has been.

Act I is set in Wartburg Castle and its environs in Medieval Germany. The minnesinger Tannhäuser, having spent a year in the magical underground realm of Venus, the goddess of love, longs to return to the human world. He pays tribute to Venus in a song, but ends by asking her to let him go.

Surprised, Venus promises him even greater pleasures, but when he insists and repeats his pleas, she furiously dismisses Tannhäuser and curses his desire for salvation. Tannhäuser cries out that his hope rests with the Virgin Mary and suddenly finds himself transported to a valley near the castle of the Wartburg.

A procession of pilgrims passes on the way to Rome. Tannhäuser is deeply moved and praises the wonders of God as horns announce the arrival of a hunting party. It is Landgrave Hermann with his knights. Recognising Tannhäuser as their long-lost friend, they beg him to return to the castle with them, but Tannhäuser is reluctant.

Wolfram, one of the knights, reminds him that his singing once won him the love of Elisabeth, the Landgrave's niece. On hearing her name Tannhäuser understands what he must do and joins his companions.

Tenor Johan Botha, widely acclaimed as a master of this repertoire at the Met, was born in Rustenburg, South Africa. Performing since 1989, he made his breakthrough on the international stage in 1993 at the Opera Bastille, as Pinkerton in Puccini's Madama Butterfly.

Since then, he has performed at leading venues around the world such as the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Opera Australia, Royal Opera House (London), La Scala, and the Salzburg Festival.

Botha is said to have earned his "bravo" for his vibrant and energetic portrayal of the minstrel, especially in the third act. "The singing shifted from a rather sombre and delicate tone before slowly but surely growing into a sharper and bitter quality. Botha's phrasing shifted from connected legato to more disconnected attacks, emphasising the character's anger at the entire situation. The tenor had no need for any major physical gestures here, as he drew the audience into rapture while sitting on the tree stump," one review said.

 

Most acclaimed

 

Soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek has become one of the most acclaimed and widely recognised classical singers in the world today. The Dutch soprano has appeared in nearly all of the great opera houses and festivals in the world, including the Bayreuth and Aix en Provence festivals, Covent Garden, Royal Opera, Opera National de Paris, the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Semperoper Dresdenand Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

Her signature roles include Sieglinde in Die Walkuere, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Minnie in La Fanciulla del West and the title roles in Francesca da Rimini, Jenufa, Manon Lescaut, Katya Kabanova and Maddalena in Andrea ChÈnier.

Living up to her reputation, Westbroek delivered an impressive performance in the role of Elizabeth, Tannhäuser's faithful and innocent love. "Her rendition of 'Dich, teure Halle' {in Act II} was brimming with vitality. Her duet with Tannhäuser was equally riveting, with Westbroek's Elizabeth a nervous lover constantly looking to her Tannhäuser for a reciprocation of his devotion. When he touched her face late in the scene, Westbroek's face was filled with tremendous pleasure, a beautiful moment that revealed the depth of the character's love and desire for Tannhäuser," a reviewer said.

Tickets are now on sale for The Met Opera's 2015 - 16 Season at the cinemas' box offices and via the web at www.palaceamusement.com, with a value added Palace Card.