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Image Entertainment presents
Tannhauser (1994)

"To you, Goddess of Love, I sing my song."
- Tannhauser (Rene Kollo)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: March 12, 2001

Stars: Rene Kollo, Jan-Hendrik Rootering, Waltraud Meier, Bernd Weikl
Other Stars: Claes H. Ahnsjo, Nadine Secunda
Director: David Alden

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sensuality)
Run Time: 03h:12m:43s
Release Date: March 06, 2001
UPC: 014381694925
Genre: opera

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA-B+ D-

DVD Review

When one thinks of Wagnerian drama, the image that comes to mind is usually one of swords, spears and metal brassieres. In this stark and rather odd production by David Alden, Wagner's opera Tannhauser gets a makeover. Although a couple of swords are still seen because they're mentioned in the libretto, nearly nothing survives of the traditional presentation of the mystical drama about the mortal lover of a goddess and the uneasy coexistence of Christianity and paganism.

Heinrich Tannhauser (Rene Kollo) is a minnesinger, or minstrel knight, who has found Venusberg, the home of Venus (Waltraud Meier), the Goddess of Love herself. There he has become her lover, but in his heart he feels that he has sinned against Christ. Rejecting Venus, he returns to his worldly life at the court of Hermann, the Prince of Thuringia (Jan-Hendrik Rootering). There he is reconciled with his former love, the Princess Elisabeth (Nadine Secunda). However, at a competition of songs about love, Tannhauser lets slip that he has been to Venusberg and is banished by the Prince. To redeem himself, Tannhauser must make a pilgrimage to the Pope and beg forgiveness.

Alden's staging is rather bizarre. As, mentioned, almost none of the ordinary trappings of this opera is present. Instead we have a set that is starkly black and white (except for the scenes at Venusberg), with costumes that are an uneasy cross of the Victorian and the modern. The one unifying piece of scenery is a massive pillar set at a cockeyed angle, apparently symbolizing the decay of the pagan past. The court of the Thuringian prince has a massive sign "Germania Nostra" as well as a large stone eagle, which uneasily makes the viewer suspect that there is more than a little longing for a return of fascism lurking in the background here. I'm not entirely sure what the message of this interpretation was meant to be however, because the viewer is given a variety of seemingly random visuals that defy any sort of ready categorization. For instance, the pilgrims, in a rather obvious stroke, bear gigantic boulders representing their sins and guilt. But why does one of the knights wear a black leather jacket and sunglasses?

The cast is generally excellent. Vocally, there is nothing to complain about whatsoever. All of the cast have terrific voices and use them well here. With the exception of Secunda, they also act quite well, which is unusual for an opera cast. Tannhauser comes across as truly tormented and guilt-ridden, while Waltraud Meier's Venus is a delicious spectacle of sultry lust culminating in libidinous fury. The performances are quite enjoyable.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Gratifyingly, this opera is shot on a closed stage, without a live audience. This makes for a much more controlled atmosphere and permits a much better visual experience on DVD than is normally the case. Black levels are excellent, and colors during the Venusberg sequence are bright and vivid. The rest of the opera is quite sombre in appearance, but appropriately so under this interpretation. The one complaint is excessive edge enhancement and ringing which is particularly noticeable given the stark minimalist sets.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Germanyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio tracks are both quite good. The 5.1 track is preferable, with a wider soundstage and excellent bass, but the 2.0 Dolby Surround track is quite good as well. The soundfield is enveloping with both vocals and orchestra coming from the surrounds, which makes for a slightly unnatural listening experience. I did not notice any clear directionality of any kind. A little hiss and noise is audible during quiet moments, such as the Pilgrims' Chorus, but otherwise is not noticeable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 44 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 42 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:43m:32s

Extras Review: No extras are present. The disc is rather sloppily put together, with the layer change coming in the middle of a musical number. The subtitles also don't last long enough on the screen; in the famous Evening Star aria, the phrases are so long that one forgets what the English was long before they conclude. Please, Image, keep the subtitles up for the duration of the phrase.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

A somewhat cryptic reinterpretation of Wagner's opera, without the usual trappings, this disc unites an excellent cast and a solid transfer to make for an intriguing experience.


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