Tannhauser Overture (Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg, WWV 70)

The three-act opera Tannhäuser, with the full title Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg (WWV 70 in the composer’s works catalog), was written in 1845. It features music and libretto by Richard Wagner. It is based on two legends from Germany: the story of the Wartburg Song Contest and the narrative of Tannhäuser, a mythologized poet and medieval German minnesänger. The conflict between sacred and profane love, as well as love’s ability to bring about redemption, are central themes to Wagner’s work.

The opera’s famous overture, which is sometimes performed independently as a concert piece, was written last. Wagner started writing the music while on holiday in Teplitz in the summer of 1843 and finished the full score on April 13, 1845. In his autobiography, Wagner stated that he became so passionately ill while creating the music for the Venusberg grotto “I painstakingly and laboriously drew the initial concepts for my music for the Venusberg. Excitation and blood rushes to the brain were causing me a lot of discomfort in the meanwhile. I made up being sick and spending days in bed.” Play Tannhauser Overture in full length on SoundCloud:   The instrumentation appears to have been influenced by French opera. Wagner utilizes 12 German waldhorns in place of the French brass instruments called for in the score’s onstage brass parts. Another staple of French opera, the harp, is used by Wagner. Wagner made numerous changes to the opera throughout the course of his career, and he was still not happy with the structure when he passed away. The opera’s debut in Paris in 1861 saw the most substantial modification.