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Photo: Enrico Nawrath


Tannhäuser in Tobias Kratzers formidably entertaining production is unusually intelligently put together with live action and film clips that weave in and out of each other in a set design that never ceases to surprise.

You sit with your jaw on your chest throughout the entire re-premiere of this early Wagnerian gem, which was deservedly named Performance of the Year by the discerning Opernwelt magazine.

A massive surplus of quality characterizes each and every one of the large and small cogs that make a mega-performance like this Tannhäuser drive home a wild victory at one of the world’s most difficult opera venues – Wagner’s own Festspielhaus in Bayreuth.

To the thrones of the Tannhäuser overture, carried by its sparkling, pure melody line and soaring solemnity, the show opens with majestic drone footage of the Bavarian Alps and the area’s fairytale castles.

The camera follows a beautiful, old-school Citroën minibus where a clown/actor troupe of free-spirited caliber is on its way to an unknown destination – and yet.

The breathtaking footage is blown up to gigantic size on a semi-transparent curtain. And who knows if the minivan doesn’t end up driving directly onto the stage with the entire troupe on board, and the plot can begin to unfold in Kratzers gifted extemporization.

Tannhäuser is, in a nutshell, about the conflict between whore and saint, where the title character has opted out of normal life in favor of a happier life in the Venus Mountains.

Through a singing competition in Wartburg, his former lover hopes to win him back to the narrow path of virtue.

What’s super clever is that the competition has been translocated right here to Bayreuth’s Festspielhaus. Soon, the metal layer mixes with physical reality as the troupe breaks into the theater and shortly after, the police swarm in, while backstage technicians frantically try to keep things under control (keen Wagnerians will sense the reference to Wagner’s participation in the revolutionary uprising in Dresden).

The controlled chaos is followed in real time by handheld live cams transmitting to the stage in a wild picture-in-picture technique that mixes time, place, genres and scenographic devices. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Be sure to do your homework (plot/context) at home, as Bayreuth does not, as a matter of principle, subtitle their performances, which I find regrettable bordering on arrogant, considering that audiences come from all over the world to experience this opera mecca, and cannot be expected to understand, let alone hear everything that sounds from the cornucopia of choirs, soloists, orchestra and scenic effects that make up a solid Bayreuth bash like this.

Klaus Florian Vogt is Tannhäuser in a performance that has been praised to the skies in the international opera press.

In stormy moments he moved with quiet, introverted strength, and then opened up a world of lyrical charisma, as if of finely glittering tonal silver (Bachtrack).

That’s about as far as it goes!

He is brilliantly supported by Elisabeth Teige as Elisabeth, Ekaterina Gubanova as Venus and Markus Eiche in a very strong performance as Wolfram.

The orchestra is predictably excellent – and it’s as if a collective saving of inarticulate cheers is earning interest among the audience as the evening progresses.

When the stage lights go out, the hall goes wild in a veritable storm of cheers.

Rock concert-like applause, shouting, stomping with the gold bite shoes and rattling with the diamonds, goes on for half an hour after the curtain falls on five hours of opera of the highest class.

Bayreuth is the place of honor. Honor requires taking chances – and audiences and critics have a short fuse.

This production hits the nail on the head. Kratzers Tannhäuser is so obviously intelligent, thought out at a high creative level and executed so convincingly by soloists, chorus and orchestra that there is no way around the rare six stars from GOT TO SEE THIS

The performance will be repeated at the 2024 festival and is highly recommended.