Tannhäuser in Concert (Hamer Hall) – music theatre review

It is the 13th century and we are with German poet and singer Tannhäuser (Stefan Vinke). Having left the company of his fellow troubadours, he has given himself over to lust in another world inhabited by the goddess Venus (Anna-Louise Cole).

But he longs for his old life and so he leaves, only to find himself embraced, at least initially, by his old friends, including Wolfram (Samuel Dundas). He is also back in the presence of his former lover Elisabeth (Amber Wagner), who has been waiting for him for a long time.

A song contest is organised by Elisabeth’s uncle, Landgrave Hermann (Timo Riihonen). Tannhäuser outrages those present with his declaration of sensual pleasures in Venusberg. He is subsequently banished to seek penance in Rome, his only hope of salvation … or is it?

Tannhäuser in Concert is a stirring, evocative, uplifting experience. Richard Wagner’s imaginative score is superb. The performances are totally engrossing.

I was immediately struck by the angelic voice of soprano Anna-Louise Cole, who seemed to elevate so effortlessly. German tenor Stefan Vinke is a compelling presence in a full-blooded showing as Tannhäuser. American soprano Amber Wagner makes a grand entrance in Act II and proceeds to mesmerise. I was also taken by the impact of baritone Samuel Dundas and bass Timo Riihonen.

Praise also for the magnificent voices of the Opera Australia Chorus, which are stirring and harmonious. Conductor Johannes Fritzsch is a pleasure to watch with Orchestra Victoria. He has a lightness of touch, with breakout flourishes. There is something special in each of the three acts as the ecstasy and drama of Tannhäuser plays out. It is an experience to savour.

The opera is on again at Hamer Hall on 20th May, 2023.

Alex First

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