Calixto Bieito's Latest Tannhauser: Restrained, Out of Ideas Or Just A Guardian Reader?

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 | 1:32:00 am

Whatever you might think of Calixto Bieito's opera productions understated is not a word one would commonly use. Yet, that is certainly one adjective one could use for his production of Tannhauser for La Fenice in Venice last February. In one of the few English language reviews for this production, Keris Nine at the Opera Journal says basically this. Describing the production as a "...minimalist expression of this Tannhäuser ... [suggesting].. that he (Bieito) is seeking to strip back the work to its fundamental essence to see whether there's a deeper emotional truth to be found..." Certainly not something Bieitio is known for. Of course, there is another alternative, as Nine wittily, if rather cruelly, puts it "...or else he is just lazy and running out of ideas."

The colour palate certainly identifies it as Bieito - as too does its inherent "bourgeoisness". Although, this production might be better described as Petite bourgeoisie. So much so, that one feels that at any moment it will take out a subscription to the Guardian, prepare some avocado toast and drink a glass of some "craft gin".

The Venusberg is the most interesting part of the production, just sadly, not greatly interesting. No ballet in the opening, but just Venus "moping" around in what might be a grove (there are some trademark Bieto bushes) at midnight. Pagan it certainly is, but the restrained, "harmless" paganism of the urban fantasy reader who has watched the "Witches Of Eastwick" read Starhawk's famous, feminist, Wiccan book "The Spiral Dance" and burned a few candles. This is not the wild, if Christian influenced, portrayal of paganism as written by Wagner. Contemporary Paganism is a highly interesting area and if Bieito is trying to include it here then good. However, like Tannhauser, it deserves something more interesting than this.

However, it is not a "bad" production, it is just very "inoffensive", There are certainly much worse productions available. And vocally one could do much, much, worse.

Should you want to watch the production it has been made freely available by "Culturebox" and can be found below. Should you decide to risk a look, we would be curious to hear what you think, either by mail, Twitter or Facebook.



Omer Meir Wellber
Calixto Bieito.
Paul McNamara
Liene Kinča
Ausrine Stundyte
Christoph Pohl
Pavlo Balakin
Cameron Becker
Alessio Cacciamani
Paolo Antognetti
Mattia Denti
Chiara Cattelan