Wagner: Tannhäuser - Kassel, Norman, Veasey, Bailey, Ridderbusch; Davis. London, 1973


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Initially I was drawn to this recording because of the stellar pair of leading ladies in the form of Jessye Norman as Elisabeth and Josephine Veasey as Venus, but the real reason to get this recording has nothing to do with the cast. It is a rare performance that uses the Paris revision. By 1861, Tristan und Isolde and a good amount of the Ring were already written and Wagner's composition style had completely veered from the rather conventional forms he embraced in 1843. The harmonies are lusher and the music just seems so much more advanced. It had been his intention to go back and revise the rest of the opera but it never came to pass which is a real pity given how much richer the Venusberg scene is after he revisited it. Norman is sensational as Elisabeth. In the 70′s her voice has all of the richness she would become known for, coupled with a remarkable security in her upper range. Josephine Veasey offers a lush and alluring Venus equally comfortable in the dramatic outbursts as in the delicate lyric singing. Wolfgang Kassel was a last minute replacement in the title roll and he gets the job done admirably (although his somewhat dowdy tone makes it is hard to see why these women would be that taken with him.) Norman Bailey and Karl Ridderbusch are also quite good as Wolfram and Landgraf. The sound is good.

OD 10855-3