Mastodon Not The First Difficult Tannhauser Production: Meeting Venus - The Wagnerian

Not The First Difficult Tannhauser Production: Meeting Venus

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 13 May 2013 | 1:30:00 pm

Edit: Given recent events, it seemed an appropriate time to delve into the archives and bring this to your attention. Originally upped a few years ago it seems to have taken an entirely new meaning - especially as this "production" also ends without a set.

We love this film and can't recommend it enough. A biting satire on the opera world: musicians, singers, conductors, producers managers and even unions (occupational and European). And yet at the same time it manages to retain a love of Wagner, Tannhauser and the entire rather messy business of both producing an opera and being human. Add to this a glorious ending that makes full use of Wagner's text and it may be the best use of any Wagner opera in the movies. While all but ignored at its premiere in 1991 it has gone on to gain something of a cult status. If you get the chance track down a copy, add it to your Christmas list, do anything but we would recommend seeing it. It has become a film we always tend to drag out at least once a year.

Warning: the second youtube video here contains the ending of the movie! If you have not seen it yet you might want to skip this 


Meeting Venus is based on a play cowritten by the film's director, Istvan Szabo. Glenn Close plays a celebrated Swedish opera star Karin Anderson who is slated to appear in an internationally-telecast production of Tannhauser. Ms. Anderson balks at the notion of working with obscure Hungarian conductor Zoltan Szanto. The much-anticipated production may never get off the ground, thanks to labor-management difficulties, intramural jealousies, and clashing egos. Admidst all this chaos, the mismatched Anderson and Szanto fall in love.



Glenn Close as Karin Anderson
Niels Arestrup as Zoltan Szanto
Marián Labuda as Von Schneider
Maïté Nahyr as Maria Krawiecki
Victor Poletti as Stefano Del Sarto
André Champeau as Etienne Tailleur
Jay O. Sanders as Stephen Taylor
Johanna ter Steege as Monique Angelo
Roberto Pollak as Isaac Partnoi
François Delaive as Thomas
Maria de Medeiros as Yvonne
Etienne Chicot as Toushkau
Ildikó Bánsági as Jana
Dorottya Udvaros as Edith

Voice Cast:

 Kiri Te Kanawa as Elisabeth,
René Kollo as Tannhäuser
Håkan Hagegård as Wolfram von Eschenbach 
Waltraud Meier as Venus 
With the London Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Marek Janowski 


Directed by István Szabó

Writing credits(in alphabetical order)

Michael Hirst

István Szabó


Superconductor  provided an overview and review on its DVD release in the USA in 2010 which I reprint in part below (to continue reading click the link at the end:

Final scene

Movie Review: Meeting Venus

The comedy chronicling a particularly troubled production of Wagner'sTannhaüser was mostly ignored when it was released in 1991. At long last, Warner Archives has released it on DVD for the U.S. market.

Venus is the story of Hungarian conductor Zoltan Szanto, (Dutch actor Niels Arestrup) who has come to the "Opera Europa", a Paris-based international company "where you can be misunderstood in six different languages" to lead a new production ofTannhaüser.

Wagner's opera is the story of the medieval knight who is torn between his love for the saintly Elisabeth and his unearthly lust for the goddess Venus. As the married conductor begins an affair with his leading lady (played by Glenn Close and sung by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa), his personal life begins to mirror the complex world of Wagner's opera.

Another flattering review from 1991 can be found over at the New York Times. Click here