- Tannhäuser, opera, WWV 70
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Richard Wagner wanted to create what he termed a gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, in which music, drama, and poetry were equal and inseparably fused. He worked gradually toward this goal (realized most powerfully in the four-part Ring of the Nibelungen), creating many great works along the way, most notably the romantic operas Tannhäuser and Lohengrin. While sitting through the four operas of the Ring is not for everyone, "Tannháuser" is a veritable crowd-pleaser, boasting a gorgeous overture, the stirring Venusberg music, and a host of memorable tunes, such as Elisabeth's stirring aria, "Dich teure halle." Sir Georg Solti's recording captures the opera in all its glory, eliciting truly beautiful sounds from the Vienna Philharmonic. The singers are equally successful. Helga Dernesch is a noble Elisabeth, and it would be difficult to imagine a more dramatically and vocally compelling Venus than Christa Ludwig. René Kollo is marvelous in the strenuous title role, superior to most of the competition. There exist more recent versions of Tannhäuser on CD, but few maintain the consistently high level of this richly recorded interpretation.