Wagner’s tale of salvation and love comes to Seoul

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Wagner’s tale of salvation and love comes to Seoul

What would one do, given the choice between an eternity of sensual delight and a lifetime of struggle to gain spiritual salvation?
That is the theme of Richard Wagner’s epic opera “Tannhauser,” which will be performed by the Kansai Nikikai Opera Company of Japan this weekend at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. The performance is being held to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Japan, and is a joint collaboration between Kansai and the Seoul Metropolitan Opera Company.
The story is based on a historical figure, Tannhauser, a 13th century German minstrel knight, equivalent to the troubadors of France, whose adventurous wanderings are the stuff of legend. In the opera, he is torn between Venus, the goddess of love, and Elisabeth, a mortal.
Tannhauser, who has been Venus’s lover for some time, grows weary of the sensual ecstasy and wants to be freed to return to the mortal realm. Venus is angered by this and refuses to let him go, but Tannhauser is released from her spell by a plea to the Virgin Mary.
As he contemplates redemption for his sins, Tannhauser encounters a group of knights who had been his comrades, and they proceed into the court of the Landgrave Hermann. At a singing contest, the knights vie for the hand of the Landgrave’s niece Elisabeth with odes to spiritual love. Tannhauser, however, offers a tribute to sensual love, and is banished from the court. He then seeks absolution from the Pope, which is denied, but ultimately obtains God’s forgiveness.
The role of Tannhauser will be performed by tenors Katsumi Narita and Shigeru Negi, while soprano Junko Konishi will sing Venus.
The opera, whose famous arias include “Elisabeth’s Prayer” and “Wolfram’s Address,” among others, will be performed in German, with Shuya Okatsu conducting.
Wagner himself first conducted the opera in 1845 in Dresden, Germany, and revised it numerous times before he died in 1883. This is the first time that Tannhauser is being performed in Korea since 1979.
In October, the Seoul Metropolitan Opera will perform “Shim-chung” in Osaka, Japan.

by Choi Jie-ho

Tannhauser will be performed at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and 7 p.m. on Monday. Ticket prices range from 30,000 won to 150,000 won. For more information, call (02) 399-1723 or visit www.seoulmetopera.co.kr.
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