Tannhäuser (opera) - Composition History - The Paris Version

The Paris Version

Wagner substantially amended the opera for a special 1861 performance by the Paris Opéra. This had been requested by Emperor Napoleon III at the suggestion of Princess Pauline von Metternich, wife of the Austrian ambassador to France. This revision forms the basis of what is now known as the "Paris version" of Tannhäuser.

Wagner had originally hoped the Parisian première would take place at the Théâtre Lyrique. However, the première was at the Paris Opéra, so the composer had to insert a ballet into the score, according to the traditions of the house. Wagner agreed to this condition since he believed that a success at the Opéra represented his most significant opportunity to re-establish himself following his exile from Germany. However, rather than put the ballet in its traditional place in Act II, he chose to place it in Act I, where it could at least make some dramatic sense by representing the sensual world of Venus's realm. Thus in Tannhäuser the ballet takes the form of a bacchanale.

The changes to the score in the Paris version, apart from the ballet, included:

  • The text was translated into French (by Charles-Louis-Etienne Nuitter and others).
  • Venus, a role that in the Dresden version was considered a soprano, now calls for a mezzo soprano.
  • Venus' aria "Geliebter, komm!" was transposed down half a step and was completely altered from "...wonnige Glut durchschwelle dein Herz". From this point the Dresden and the Paris version arias go in two different directions.
  • A solo for Walther was removed from Act 2.
  • Extra lines for Venus following Tannhäuser's "Hymn to Love" were added.
  • The orchestral introduction to Act 3 was shortened.
  • The end of the opera was reworked to include Venus on stage, where before the audience only heard the Venus motif. Wagner thought that prior to the change, audiences were confused about what was happening onstage.

Read more about this topic:  Tannhäuser (opera), Composition History

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