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And that is all the overture we're allowed, deprived of some three hundred bars and many a mile of pilgrim plodding. In fact it is already game, set and match to the Venus of Ruthild Engert-Ely who may have lost the half-hearted Tannhäuser for the moment and roundly tells him he is a nincompoop to desert her [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 9, 26:30-27:35]. But a grotto with such allurements will never want for clients. The coy little statue of the Virgin Mary that provides alternative attraction clearly interests Wagner rather less, and it is, alas, the good characters who may occasionally cast a damper on his inspiration. Small wonder that the swinging Parisians of 1861 could not get the point of the work.

Ruthild Engert-Ely as Venus and Richard Versalle as Tannhäuser. DVD screenshot © 1990 Unitel
Ruthild Engert-Ely as Venus and Richard Versalle as Tannhäuser. DVD screenshot © 1990 Unitel

The now abject Richard Versalle as Tannhäuser is recognised with some astonishment by Hans Sotin's sonorous Landgrave and his hunting minstrels. Naturally they are curious to know where he's been all these long months. Not all of them find his explanation convincing or are unanimous in their welcome [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 12, 39:40-41:00]. If indeed Landgraf Hermann (1190-1217) was contemporary with Pope Innocent III, any recent papal indiscretion on the subject of Turkey pales into insignificance. Not only did his Fourth Crusade sack Constantinople, substituting a prostitute for the patriarch on the throne of St Sophia, but he also excommunicated England. That needed at least a second Ring for proper treatment.

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Copyright © 11 February 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK

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