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Le Monde illustré, 1861/03/16 [Tannhäuser]

French version premiered at the Académie Impériale de Musique.

In March 1860, Napoleon III gave in to pressure from a group led by Princess Pauline von Metternich and requested a performance of Tannhäuser at the Académie Impériale de Musique. Initially performed in Dresden in 1845, the work was revised for its Paris premiere (13 March 1861): the libretto was translated by Charles Nuitter and the music was revised to reflect the prosody of the French language. In addition, Wagner agreed to add a ballet, the Bacchanale du Venusberg, in accordance with the prevailing conventions of the Paris Opéra. However, for the sake of dramatic impact, he placed it in the first act, after the overture, and not in its traditional position in the second act. This decision was deemed unforgivable by the members of the Jockey Club who, because they tended to come to the production in the second half of the evening, after dinner, were unable to admire the dancers that night. They were behind a plot which caused the work to be withdrawn: despite 164 rehearsals and lavish stage sets, the opera was disrupted by whistles and catcalls. At the second performance in the presence of the Emperor (18 March), the members from the Faubourg Saint-Germain district, comprising quite a number of anti-Bonapartists, joined the opposition, which became increasingly politicised. Many critics, too, lampooned the music of the future. Paul Scudo, for example, wrote in La Revue des deux mondes:“Wagner aims for the complicated, for the grandiose, sometimes and more often for the monstrous, and he seems to be unaware of all that is sublime and divine in simplicity”. In the face of heavy criticism, Wagner nevertheless had his supporters: Champfleury, Pauline Viardot, Gounod, Pasdeloup, as well as Baudelaire who, as early as 1860, wrote to the composer: “It seemed to me that this music was mine, and I recognised it as any man recognises the things he is destined to love.”

Documents and archives


Caricature, Press illustration

Le Tannhäuser demandant à voir son petit frère

Farrar dans Tannhäuser

Press illustration, Picture of a scene, Photograph

Géraldine Farrar en Elsa (Tannhäuser de Wagner)

Caron Tannhauser

Press illustration, Picture of a scene, Photograph

Rose Caron en Elisabeth (Tannhäuser de Wagner)


Press illustration, Picture of a scene

Le Monde illustré, 1861/03/16 [Tannhäuser]

See the 13 listed document(s)


publication date : 13/03/24

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