Richard Wagner (1813-1883): Tannhäuser (and the Wartburg Singers’ Tournament), a grand romantic opera in three acts to the composer’s libretto. Director: David Hermann. Set: yes Schramm. Costumes: Bettina Walter. Lighting: Fabrice Kebour. Choreography: Jean-Philippe Guilois. With: Stephen Gould, tenor (Tannhäuser); Christoph Pohl, baritone (Wolfram von Eschenbach); Robert Lewis, tenor (Walther von der Vogelweide); Pete Thanapal, bass-baritone (Biterolf); Kristofer Lundin, tenor (Heinrich der Schreiber); Dumitru Madarasan, bass (Reinmar); Liang Li, bass (Landgraf Hermann); Johanii van Oostrum, soprano (Elisabeth); Irene Roberts, mezzo-soprano (Venus); Giulia Scopelliti, soprano (A young shepherd). Children of the Maîtrise, Choirs (choir conductor: Benedict Kearns) and Orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon, musical direction: Daniele Rustioni
And three! After Bohemia (Paris), Carmen (Montpellier), France sends Tannhauser take a trip into the future.
In 2018, David Hermann and Tobias Kratzer opened and closed respectively Ring by the Karlsruhe Opera. In the process, Kratzer had passed his entry into Bayreuth with flying colors Tannhauser. Was Hermann to reach the same heights with the same opera? We hoped so, the Franco-German director had also proved that he was also one of the most inventive opera directors of the moment.
Music lover or movie lover? With this new production of Tannhauser, it’s better to be both. As soon as Daniele Rustioni reaches the transplant that propels Richard Wagner’s fifth opera into its so-called revised version of Paris, David Hermann propels his viewer into the world of Philip K. Dick, brilliant science fiction storyteller, author of Do androids dream of electric sheep? who stayed in the cinema blade runnera now cult film by Ridley Scott, in which the robot played by Rutger Hauer, before the expiration, said that he had “ saw C-rays shining in the dark, near the Tannhäuser Gate… »
The enchanting creature of steel Metropolis by Fritz Lang emerges from the earth and grows at the sight: it is the new avatar of Wagner’s enchanting Venus. Surrounded by a ring of light, a cylinder that slides from the bowels of the earth to its surface like a piston gives birth to the hero-composer, but also to robotic doubles of Venus, while in the background there is an enigmatic computerized intertwining that curiously spares in Information. This dark and icy universe, as far as possible from the Venusbergs of tradition, even raising fears of the austerity crisis, rocks in a very “Dickian” way. The ring of light is broken apart to open a door to a parallel universe (as Wagner i Tannhauser): then a vast desert appears multiplied to infinity by an imposing and enormous curved mirror, which one would think stolen from Odeillo’s solar oven. It is in this space of enormous aesthetic potential that the android (ex-Wagnerian shepherd) who rocked the decor discovers the dystopia in which the rest of humanity lives described in food Max by George Miller (Knight Hunters custom car) or i Star wars by George Lucas (the stealing Jawas who will also be the pages in II).
Apart from the finely directed Heinrich/Elisabeth reunion (he sings his final composition with her), Act 2 is more traditional, which, if we leave aside the fact that it takes place in an arena also inspired by Episode IV of the most Wagnerian saga in cinema history, faithfully follows the obligatory dramaturgy of the libretto. The entrance of the guests allows to admire the magnificent costumes of Bettina Walter, which David Hermann also seems to succumb to by putting on a kind of very voluntary fashion show, as irresistible as the soundtrack that accompanies it.
Fortunately, in III we find the magnificent desert I, whose mirrored sky is this time used to the full by the organ playing. The android’s, the pilgrim’s walk are powerful images. The most beautiful remains the one where David Hermann’s concept finally unfolds: the Pray revives the android with connections undermined by women in Act 2 and returned as Saint-Exupéry’s little prince at his fall to return to the world of Venus through the once more broken ring of light, followed by Elisabeth soon after. An innovation that does star romance particularly captivating. The finale, also unpublished, shows, as Tannhäuser disappears anonymously into the crowd, Elisabeth and Venus as prophetesses of a new era where humans and allied androids will (perhaps) not repeat the mistakes of men…
This vision, which does not lack audacity in the absence of constant force of conviction, benefits from the high flight of its musical part. A few rebellious brasses and a chorus in the final bars do not tarnish this Tannhauser hybrid (Paris, alas, so long, so “Tristanian” for Act 1; Dresden for Acts II and III), remarkably conducted by Daniele Rustioni, who, although the last chords could be more marked, conducts his first Wagner with dynamics, drama, and a great sense of the melodic line. Stephen Gould, who replaces Simon O’Neill, is a huge Tannhäuser, back in top form from Bayreuth where he was Tristan, Siegfried and… Tannhäuser! The voice is definitely less bright than Kollo’s, and the voice is beautiful despite its firepower. With Gould, a terrifically invested sayer, the entire Festspielhaus seems to have invited itself to Lyon. Although it lacks the brilliant treble at the top of Dich teure Halle, we are immediately attached to Johanni van Ostruum’s magnificent Elisabeth: the timbre is clear, full just enough, the pronunciation chiseled. This Elisabeth, very comfortable on stage, is also pampered by the costume designer, the “origami dress” dressed in II attracts all eyes. Irène Roberts’ deep-set Venus imposes the same authority from start to finish. Liang Li’s Abyssal Landgrave looks like a Flying Dutchman. Voice full of emotion: Christoph Pohl’s Wolfram is one of the most beautiful heard. Robert Lewis, Pete Thanapal, Kristofer Lundin, Dumitru Madarasan: the four Minnesängers from the Wartburg (two of which come from the Lyon Opéra Studio) are already names to remember, like the name of the shepherd android, embodied in a voice that is abundant and nourished: Giulia Scopelletti.
A crowded room made a triumph of this Tannhauser stimulating, which, probably the nightmare of the non-cinephile music lover or, more often, reluctant to the slightest temporal teleportation, also dared to represent the Pope invoked in The History of Rome in the guise of the galaxy’s greatest villain: the black and Machiavellian Palpatine.
Image Credits: © Agatha Poupeney
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