replicated proscenium with pink and gold Royal Opera Home curtains varieties the doorway to the erotic world of the Venusberg in Tim Albery’s revived manufacturing of Tannhäuser. On a chair positioned to permit a glimpse of those hedonistic delights sits a succession of males formally attired as for the opera. All of us – patrons, ushers, critics – are potential purchasers. There’s a primary time for all the things. Besides that on this manufacturing the surfeit of sensuality that the disenchanted knight Tannhäuser longs to flee from is never in proof.
Definitely, for my cash, Jasmin Vardimon’s writhing-limbed choreography provides a genuinely titillating Bacchanale – although these items are admittedly subjective. However the next scene for Venus and Tannhäuser, even within the Paris model which provides us the extra voluptuous fleshing out of the love goddess that Wagner produced within the wake of Tristan und Isolde, is so missing in ardour that one can all too readily empathise with Tannhäuser’s ennui. This was solely partly as a result of Stefan Vinke had to get replaced at a couple of hours’ discover by Norbert Ernst, singing from the facet whereas Vinke walked the half. All due credit score to Ernst on this most taxing of roles, however he’s not probably the most thrilling of tenors.
The issue is with Albery’s manufacturing (austerely however successfully designed by Michael Levine), conceived in 2010 for the late clarion-voiced Johan Botha, whose bodily immobility required perching factors across the stage. Inertness was conspicuously factored into the manufacturing. Ekaterina Gubanova is an skilled Venus however she made little influence right here. Solely Gerald Finley, arriving as Wolfram with fellow minstrels, injected a little bit of life into it, Mika Kares contributing a sonorous Landgrave.
For the Wartburg scene in Act II we’re in an japanese European warzone, the courtly company changing into Kalashnikov-toting patriots. Bombardment or maybe their very own non secular fundamentalism has made a wreckage of the proscenium, which barely undermines Elisabeth’s joyful paean to the corridor of music. Both she’s buying and selling in reminiscences or she has a developed sense of irony. Vocally, Lise Davidsen doesn’t disappoint, at the very least, even when her intervention on the climax, when the complete neighborhood rounds on the licentious Tannhäuser, falls sufferer to this feeble staging.
A Wagnerian redemption ultimately in Act III, with Finley’s delicate rendering of the Tune to the Night Star and Davidsen’s magnificently vocalised Prayer to the Virgin each enhanced by the sentient conducting of Sebastian Weigle which had elsewhere appeared plodding and passionless. The patriots too have deserted their weapons and there’s a life-affirming hope for the long run with a toddler occupying the chair and gazing not at a sordid Venusberg however on the inexperienced shoots of a brand new age.
With the ROH Refrain in lusty voice, it’s a shifting ending however it barely makes up for the unforgivably lethargic stage motion of the primary two acts. On the finish of his life Wagner famously opined that he owed the world one other Tannhäuser. The identical might be mentioned of Covent Backyard.
Royal Opera Home, to February 16; roh.org.uk