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It was with this latter form of the work that San Diego Opera chose to open its 2008 season. On 26 January it was seen in a production by Michael Hampe who had previously staged several operas for that company. He told the story in a straightforward, traditional manner and his singing actors portrayed crisply outlined characters. The sets by James Mulder were based on the ones his mentor, Günther Schneider-Siemssen, made for the Metropolitan Opera's 1977 offering of the work. Patricia Zipprodt's finely detailed medieval costumes were borrowed from the Met.
Robert Gambil (Tannhäuser) is welcomed by the hunting party and invited to travel to the Wartburg for a singing competition. Photo © 2008 Cory Weaver
Tannhäuser had not been seen in San Diego since 1969, so it was a most welcome return. On Saturday evening, conductor Gabor Ötvös made a most auspicious début. He gave a masterly reading of the score that included a feeling for line and exquisitely blended passages. This opera demands an excellent chorus and Timothy Todd Simmons's group was more than up to that high standard. Their 'Pilgrim's Chorus' was extremely moving. The tenors, in particular, had a wonderfully warm lyric sound.
Copyright © 4 February 2008
Maria Nockin, Arizona USA