Royal Opera House; Queen Elizabeth Hall, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London
Majestic Lise Davidsen and Gerald Finley carry the Royal Opera’s illness-hit Wagner revival; Isata Kanneh-Mason and co shine; and in the shadows with William Byrd
An orgy with the main stud out of action is – I’m guessing here – the ultimate frustration. Luckily, Wagner’s Tannhäuser, which launches with a prolonged bacchanalian frenzy, is merely theatre, as the Royal Opera House production, directed by Tim Albery and new in 2010, emphatically reminds us. Centre stage is a proscenium arch, a replica of the ROH’s gold-and-crimson own. Art and life clash head on: literally here. Hhours before the opening of this second revival, an unwell Stefan Vinke pulled out of singing the title role.
Nobly he walked the part, which fortunately includes a good deal of sitting down, with the Austrian tenor Norbert Ernst singing from the side. Uneven dramatically, much tinkered with by Wagner himself, Tannhäuser relies on the quality of its singers to yank it out of the putrid bog of desire, or the swamp of religiosity. We must thank Ernst for enabling the performance, conducted by Sebastian Weigle, to go ahead.