Tannhauser Live from the Met, 1954 Part 1 of 3

Some history, recording technical notes, the composer's continuing popularity and Act 1 of a rare radio broadcast.

"Joy is not in things; it is in us." – Richard Wagner

For some reason, what I have yet to understand in all my decades of being a Leatherman is the link between Opera and members of our community. Last year, I stopped asking why and decided to dedicate a series of programs during Oregon Leather Pride Week that focused on this link with Alban Berg's Lulu, which, much to my surprise, was a huge and unexpected success, eliciting positive responses from a wide variety of people from all over.

This year, my focus will be on a one of the most controversial figures in all of music history, German Romantic Opera composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner. He is arguably the most important composer in the field of Opera, with his works still regularly performed by Opera houses world-wide. He is also a man that, in spite of his storied and celebrated works, someone whose personal views on things have caused a great amount of derision, particularly his anti-semitism; Wagner even published a paper (link is an English translation) about his negative views on Jewish composers in 1850.

German Romantic Opera: The music movement that found its greatest success in the 19th century where German composers wrote in their own language (opposed to Italian, the dominant Opera style prior). These Operas featured themes that sometimes blended comedy and seriousness to the libretto. Mozart's The Magic Flute started this period and found its greatest success in Wagner, who often used Medieval settings and a sense of high drama.

This program has never shied away from those artists who have, in essence, become incredibly polarizing due to their personal lives: Ted Nugent, Kanye West, Frank Sinatra and Ike Turner are just some such examples. Can we still celebrate and love the work of someone whose beliefs aren't politically correct or do not match ours? I of course cannot and will not speak for you. The goal of this program has always been on presenting to you recorded audio that you may not know even existed or is currently not part of your worldview.

Richard Wagner, Munich, Germany, 1860. Photo by Franz Seraph Hanfstaengl, public domain, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In this series of programs, the focus will be on Tannhäuser, Wagner's Opera about a singing contest set in the Middle Ages. The Operabase website indicates that in the two calendar years 2014/2015, there were 163 performances of 41 productions of Tannhäuser in 30 cities throughout the world, indicating its immense popularity since it's 1845 premier. This performance is from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City from a radio broadcast in January 1954.

Miking and recording weren't as sophisticated 60 years ago as they are today. This was recorded in mono, in front of a live audience, and you can often hear people coughing and walking around on the stage, in the orchestra pit and in the audience during the performance. You can also hear defects in the original recording as well. Today will feature all of Act One, in a synopsis which the Metropolitan Opera states: "The minnesinger Tannhäuser, having spent a year in the magical underground realm of Venus, the goddess of love, longs to return to the human world. He pays tribute to Venus in a song but ends by asking her to let him go."

Minnesinger: a German lyric poet and singer of the 12th–14th centuries who performed songs of courtly love.

We will continue Acts Two, Three and more about Wagner and the cast of this production of Tannhäuser in programs broadcasting tomorrow, Friday the third and Saturday the fourth.

Our tracks this program, presented in a continuous sequence.

1. Act 1: 1. Overture. Andante Maestoso.
2. Act 1: 2. Overture. Molto Vivace.
3. Act 1: 3. Naht Euch Dem Strande.
4. Act 1: 4. Geliebter Sag, Wo Weilt Dein Sinn?
5. Act 1: 5. Dir Töne Lob! Die Wunder Sei’n Gepriesen.
6. Act 1: 6. Geliebter! Komm, Sieh Dort Die Grotte.
7. Act 1: 7. Stets Soll Nur Dir, Nur Dir Mein Lied Ertönen.
8. Act 1: 8. Frau Holda Kam Aus Dem Berg Hervor.
9. Act 1: 9. Zu Dir Wall Ich, Mein Jesus Christ.
10. Act 1: 10. Wer Ist Der Dort In Brünstigem Gebete?
11. Act 1: 11. Als Du In Kühnem Sange Uns Bestrittest.

To download this program, please click on this link.

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner

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