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In 1859, the Tannhäuser libretto was translated into French. Subsequently, the composer wrote some new music as well, so a different version was heard at the opera's Paris première on 13 March 1861.

Roderick Dixon as Walther von der Vogelweide, Martin Gantner as Wolfram von Eschenbach, Jason Stearns as Biterolf, Franz Josef Selig as Landgrave Hermann, Peter Seiffert as Tannhäuser, Christopher Feigum as Reinmar von Zweter and Robert MacNeil as Heinrich der Schreiber in Act 1 of LA Opera's production of Tannhäuser. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard
Roderick Dixon as Walther von der Vogelweide, Martin Gantner as Wolfram von Eschenbach, Jason Stearns as Biterolf, Franz Josef Selig as Landgrave Hermann, Peter Seiffert as Tannhäuser, Christopher Feigum as Reinmar von Zweter and Robert MacNeil as Heinrich der Schreiber in Act 1 of LA Opera's production of Tannhäuser. Photo © 2007 Robert Millard

The libretto for this opera combines two medieval legends. The first one tells of the knight who spends a year with the goddess Venus and the second concerns a Thuringian singing contest. The first tale, which is the basis for Acts I and III of the opera, was popularized by German folksongs of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, although the tale of a human falling in love with a goddess could have originated in pre-Christian lore. The refusal of forgiveness and the flowering of the Pope's staff is probably a Reformation era addition. The second story, which forms the opera's second act, tells of the Sängerkrieg ('Singer War') on the Wartburg. The participants were said to be the historical Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Walther von der Vogelweide, along with the mythical Klingsor of Hungary. Both of these legends were published in various versions by leading writers during the early nineteenth century.

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Copyright © 22 April 2007 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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