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Tannhäuser Seminar

December 10, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Hybrid Hybrid Event
Free – $200.00
Tannhaeuser Production at the Met Opera

Tannhäuser Seminar

“I still owe the world a Tannhäuser” – Richard Wagner

A half-day exploration of Wagner’s opera, our annual seminar offers a deep-dive into the work and coincides with the Met Opera production this winter.

“Remember, composers do not always develop stylistically in a linear manner. For instance, the most forward-looking scene in Tannhäuser is the Rome Narrative. It's the only place where Wagner has a variety of motifs unfolding in the orchestra, where the vocal part is really written in response to the text. There's nothing else like it in the piece: that was there in 1845; that wasn't changed later.” - John J. H. Muller IV, “Tannhäuser: Thoughts on the Different Versions”
Met Cast Roundtable: Elza van den Heever (Elisabeth), Ekaterina Gubanova (Venus), George Zeppenfeld (Landgraf), Christian Gerhaher (Wolfram)
"I think even for [Venus], [Tannhäuser] is special, he's not like any other mortal. He's an artist, he's an exceptional artist, and she feels for him. What I like thinking when I'm in it, when I'm on stage with all these manipulations and mood changes that she has, I like thinking that there's a fight inside her between a woman and a goddess. So there is something still in her that is very womanlike, very real. And then the goddess takes over." - Ekaterina Gubanova (Venus)
“Isn't it interesting that mostly in Wagner operas, it's mostly not the fathers who care for the daughters? It is the uncle, this main positive relationship. You look at Daland, and also at Pogner, they are only busy to get them married - with some advantage for themselves. So maybe Wagner is mirroring his own life in many of his operas. He doesn't have a good idea of fathers. [...] it's always problematic.” - Georg Zeppenfeld
"It's very intimate, I love working with Georg [Zeppenfeld], because he does feel very fatherly to me. [laughs] It's that awkward thing when you're trying to talk to your parents about relationships. It is awkward, but beautiful and intimate, and I love this tiny little interaction. But also during the Singerfest and during this awful dismantlement of the situation we're in, we're sort of still in character. We never break character, that's really nice, to work with someone who's so committed on stage. I love it." - Elza van den Heever (Elisabeth)
"The tragic origin of this opera I think is a little bit in the last scene of the first act: showing that Wolfram has to re-invite [Tannhäuser], get him back, in order to see Elisabeth again: which he needs - to see her - because he's so infatuated. But on the other hand he knows: it will be the reunion of Tannhäuser and Elisabeth, because she loves him, and he maybe loves her as well. So it is a tragic decision he [Wolfram] has to take. Out of this decision, I think, the whole horror in the second act and third act, certainly, has its origin." - Christian Gerhaher (Wolfram)
On the clarinet/bassoon/horn ensemble playing: "It's hard in the pit because usually the horns and clarinets are really far apart. For Tannhäuser we're a little closer, but not close enough that we can really fit into each other's sounds. But when we rehearsed downstairs, the horns were right behind the clarinets: so it was really easy to start off on the right foot, and get everyone listening the right way and trying to blend, so that when we got into the pit, even though there's more distance, we're still listening for the same things, we're still thinking about it the same way." - Anton Rist, Principal Clarinet
"[Tannhäuser] is really satisfying because it's technical, but yet you can hear the clarity of it, and also in this opera, Wagner is very kind to strings. Because usually it's so heavy throughout, especially Meistersinger. This one is so kind, because the first act is hardest. The second act is challenging but it's shorter. And then the third act: we're on vacation!" - Wen Qian, Violin
"The horn is lucky in the orchestra, because we are a brass instrument, but we also really are a woodwind element as well. And it's such a pleasure to play both sides of the colors. [...] In Tannhäuser, [Wagner] says 1st and 2nd Horn, and 3rd and 4th Horns are actually 1st and 2nd Waldhorn. Wagner wrote for 2-valve Horn, and valveless horn. He wanted to achieve smoothness in ther lyricism. So sometimes 3rd and 4th horn are playing by themselves with the woodwinds." - Anne M. Scharer, French Horn
"I have written in my part: I know who's singing during the song contest. I know who's singing, and Wagner's writing actually changes depending on which character is singing. For example Wolfram, every time he sings, the harp part: he uses the full range of the instrument: lots of arpeggios that start from the bass, all the way up to the treble of the instrument. As opposed to when Tannhäuser or Biterolf are singing, it's more of a repetitive, sort of plucking texture. And so every time I'm playing, I know who's singing, and I try to keep that in mind: I'm not just playing the notes on the page, I'm trying to show the different character that is singing at that time." - Hannah Cope, Principal Harp
On the Castellucci Tannhäuser production (2017 Munich, 2023 Salzburg): "Sometimes the stage pictures are very beautiful, sometimes merely puzzling - at least on a first watching. [...] in the final act, Castellucci brings his own agenda to the foreground, falling back on a practice of his I call "clinical humanism": his use of technical imagery, such as chemical formulas, to remind a viewer of the universal and immutable physical that affect every human body." - Susan Brodie, “Recent Tannhäuser Productions: Conflicts between Individual Desires and the Common Good”
Members and guests browse the books and merchandise for sale.


12:00 noon: Introduction by David Shengold, music critic and lecturer

12:05 – 12:55 pm: John J. H. Muller IV “Tannhäuser: Thoughts on the Different Versions”

Tannhäuser contains elements drawn from the traditions of 19th-century opera as well as more forward-looking stylistic features. A study of the versions of the work, spanning a period of over thirty years, demonstrates Wagner’s growth as a composer and dramatist.

1:15 – 2:00 pm: Met Cast Roundtable

Elza van den Heever (Elisabeth)
Christian Gerhaher (Wolfram)
Ekaterina Gubanova (Venus)
George Zeppenfeld (Landgraf)
other cast members TBC

2:15 – 3:05  pm: Met Orchestra Musicians Roundtable

Hannah Cope, Principal Harp
Wen Qian, Violin
Anton Rist, Principal Clarinet
Anne M. Scharer, French Horn

3:20 – 4:10 pm: Susan Brodie, “Recent Tannhäuser Productions: Conflicts between Individual Desires and the Common Good”

Download a PDF of the program here.

Books & Merchandise for sale. Refreshments served. Doors open at 11:30 a.m.

In-person & livestreamed (viewable online through midnight Dec. 12)

Venue & Accessibility: Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street (between 1st Street-2nd Avenue), Third Floor

There are smooth sidewalk cutouts at 73rd & Second Ave.; those at First Ave. are uneven. Look for the access ramp to Bohemian Spirit Restaurant to the left of the Hall; the venue is fully accessible. WSNY Seminar is on the 3rd Floor, via elevators, and seating can be arranged to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. ADA compliant restrooms are conveniently located on the same floor.


December 10, 2023
12:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Free – $200.00
Event Category:


Wagner Society of New York
(800) 573-6148
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Bohemian National Hall
321 E 73rd St., Third Floor
New York, 10021 United States
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