Tannhäuser: Levine

Tannhäuser, by Richard Wagner, performed by Levine, Metropolitan Opera ★★★★★
This is a traditionally staged and performed opera. I’m not sure if it’s the Dresden or the Paris version of the opera. Sometimes, the staging leaves something to be desired, such as the re-use of the scene from the second part of the first act for the third act. The Venusberg scene was not terribly convincing in the first act. Having been in Thüringia and the Wartburg, the scenes were not terribly reminiscent of the places Wagner was attempting to represent. Even still, few DVD performances nowadays are available with traditional staging, and most are offered as minimally staged, which, I think, does Tannhäuser an injustice.  The entire production is very well staged, the video operation well done, and the audio comes through always well with an excellent voice to orchestra balance. Thus, in spite of its problems, this is probably the best DVD Tannhäuser available today.
People often ask me why I like Wagner, especially in terms of his anti-semitism. Such antisemitism doesn’t seem to cause Levine too much of a problem, as well as many other Jewish conductors, who are quite masterful at the works of Wagner. It is like many composers. I see nobody protesting Tchaikovsky because he was a child molester, or Britten because he was fond of little boys. We overlook Shostakovich’s anti-capitalism, Beethoven’s anti-social behavior, Schumann’s psychosis, Bach’s penchant for perfection, frequent anger fits, and probable addiction to alcohol. He also had a criminal record. Most composers, in spite of their life, produced transcendental music, and Wagner is no exception. Certainly, the prudishness of many anti-Wagnerites competes with Wagner’s own arrogance. Nobody competes as well as the Brits with the ability to be racist. so, we appreciate Wagner’s music for what it is. Wagner does an excellent job of representing various human emotions and traits, though this portrayal of Christianity is that of a very medieval Roman Catholic sort, the Pope being the sole source for salvation from certain sins. This is probably how many, even Christians, view the faith, and that is sad. This opera is early Wagner, and, over time, we see improvement in both his musical expression as well as his thematic choices. The Tannhäuser music is quite addicting, most of it very catchy, and makes for a first Wagner opera to listen to if you are unfamiliar with his works.