Summary Richard Wagner. Tannhäuser and the competition of singers in Wartburg


Romantic opera in three acts (four scenes)

R. Wagner’s libretto


Hermann, Landgrave Thuringia











Soprano and viola



Tungsten von Eschenbach

Walter von der Vogelweide


Heinrich Schreiber

Rheinmar von Flower

Elizabeth, the niece of the Landgrave


Young Shepherd

Four pages

Sirens, naiads, Bacchante, pilgrims, Thuringian counts, knights and ladies.

The action takes place in Wartburg (Thuringia) and its environs in the early 13th century.



In the libretto of Tannhauser, Wagner masterfully combined three different legends. The play’s hero is a historical figure, a knight-minnesinger, who lived in Germany, probably between 1220-1270. He traveled a lot, took part in the internecine struggle of the German princes against the pope, sang love, wine, women and bitterly repented of his sins (the music of his “Song of Repentance” was preserved). After the death, Tannhäuser became the hero of a folk song, widely used in Germany in several versions. One of them is included by A. Arnim and K. Brentano in the popular collection “The Wonderful Horn of a Boy”, the other – in an ironic form, with the introduction of modern motifs – processed by G. Heine; Tannhauser is a hero and novella by L. Tika, from his youth known to Wagner. This is a beautiful legend about the penitent knight,

With the legend of “Venus Hill” (as originally called his opera Wagner), the composer combined the legend about the contest of singers in Wartburg, near Eisenach – in the castle of the Landgrave of Thuringia,

a passionate lover of poetry and patron of minnesingers. This legend was also very popular in Germany; he devoted one of his fantastic novels ETA Hoffmann. Wagner made Tannhäuser the main hero of the singing competition (although this tournament, according to legend, took place more than ten years before his birth).

As a contender of Tannhauser, the composer showed in his opera Wolfram von Eschenbach – one of the greatest German medieval poets (1170-1220), the author of the poem about Lohengrin, his father Parsifal, whom later Wagner partially used in his two operas.

The third legend, used in “Tannhauser”, served as a source for the image of the heroine – Elizabeth, whom Wagner made the niece of the Landgrave of Thuringia. It is also a historical character: a Hungarian princess, she was intended as a child to be the wife of the son of the Landgrave, a brutal and cruel warrior who later died on the crusade. Elizabeth humbly demolished the oppression of her husband, and then her mother-in-law, and after death was declared a Catholic saint.

The idea of ​​the opera on the plot of “Tannhäuser” originated with Wagner during his stay in Paris, in the autumn of 1841, the final plan was formed upon his return to his homeland, in June-July of the following year; Then the first musical sketches appeared. The opera was completed in the spring of 1845. In the same year, October 19, the premiere took place in Dresden under the direction of Wagner. The opera was a great success, but despite this composer over two years, he worked on the final twice. The new edition (1860-1861) was made for the production of the Bolshoi Opera in Paris (the first act was expanded where two ballet pantomimes on the themes of ancient myths were introduced, the duet of Tannhäuser and Venus was changed, including a large aria of the heroine). The new premiere, held on March 13, 1861, was marked by an unprecedented scandal; the Parisian editorship of Tannhäuser


“Tannhäuser” is a typically romantic opera with its characteristic counterpositions of fantasy and reality, solemn processions, dance scenes, extensive choirs and ensembles. The abundance of actors gives the opera splendor and monumentality. A great place is occupied by colorful sketches of nature and life, forming a picturesque background of lyrical drama.

In a large overture, the two worlds fighting for Tannhäuser’s soul are musically opposed: the world of severe moral duty, personified by the restrained and majestic themes of the choir of pilgrims, and the world of sensual pleasures conveyed by the impetuous, inviting motives of the Venus kingdom.

On the contrast of fantasy and everyday scenes, the first act is being built. Bacchanalia is imbued with agonizing anxiety, riotous merriment; the choir of sirens behind the stage sounds mesmerizing. In the center of the picture is a big duet of Tannhauser and Venus, revealing a clash of two characters; thrice, more and more uplifted, the vigorous, in the spirit of the march, the hymn in honor of Venus “To you praise” is opposed to him by the insinuating, caressing arioso of Venus “Look, my friend, between the flowers, in the fog aloe marvelous grotto” and her angry curse “Go, a slave is my defiant. “

In the second picture of the first act, there is a calm, clear light. A serene song of a shepherd. “Here Holda came out from under the mountain” with a soloing English horn is replaced by a light chorale of pilgrims and colorful horns calls. The act ends with a big sextet of a gusty, jubilant character.

The second act splits into two sections: lyrical scenes and a grandiose choral finale. In the orchestral introduction and Elizabeth’s aria “Oh bright hall, hall of art” there is a feeling of impatient, joyful expectation. Close on the mood of the lyrical duo of Elizabeth and Tannhauser. A solemn march with the choir leads to the stage of the contest of singers. Here alternate small arioso – performances of minnesingers. The first arioso of Wolfram “My glance is embarrassed” is distinguished – restrained and calm, accompanied by a harp. His second, melodious arioso “Oh sky, I call to you” sounds more agitated. With him is directly compared the performance of Tannhäuser – the ardent hymn in honor of Venus – “Love the goddess, to you a single praise.” In the center of the widely developed final ensemble with the choir is the soulful, melodious plea of ​​Elizabeth “

The third act is framed by pilgrims’ choirs; in the center of it – solo episodes characterizing three heroes. A large orchestral introduction – “Tannhauser’s Pilgrimage” heralds the drama of his story. At the beginning of the act, the majestic theme of the choir of pilgrims “I see you again, the land of my own” sounds (the first theme of the overture). The peaceful and light prayer of Elizabeth “Heaven is the Queen of the Holy” is replaced by the broad melody of the song “Oh, the Evening Star” by Wolfram. Tannhäuser’s story is rich in contrasting mood changes: jerky recitation sounds against the backdrop of an orchestral theme recreating a mournful procession; A dazzling vision is a picture of the papal palace. In the next scene (Tannhäuser and Wolfram), you can hear the enticing orchestral motifs of the Venus kingdom (from the first picture). They sweep away the solemn sounds of the chorale, crowned by a powerful,

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Summary Richard Wagner. Tannhäuser and the competition of singers in Wartburg