- Tannhäuser, opera, WWV 70
Continuing his extraordinary SACD series of Richard Wagner's music dramas for PentaTone, Marek Janowski presents "Tannhäuser" in the original Dresden version, with a dynamic cast, choir, and orchestra that give the performance their all. Like the previous recordings in this project, issued in celebration of the bicentennial of Wagner's birth, the performance is live and the sound quality is exceptional in capturing both the exciting playing of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the dramatic power of the singers onstage. The standouts are Robert Dean Smith as Tannhäuser, Marina Prudenskaja as Venus, and the exceptional Nina Stemme as Elisabeth, leading a cast that is strong and evenly matched to the roles. The mutichannel format fairly accurately re-creates their movements and positions, so there's little confusion about the direction of the vocals or trailing off. (The voice of the Shepherd, sung beautifully by Bianca Reim, is remote by design but perfectly audible.) The choir is rich and vibrant, particularly in the Pilgrims Chorus, and the Berlin orchestra has great presence and burnished sonorities; many listeners will prize this recording for its playing, perhaps even more than for the singing. Taken as a whole, this is a highly desirable recording of "Tannhäuser" that Wagner buffs should consider adding to their collections. Highly recommended.