/

Be baffled and awed

by Benjamin Woodward

The New National Theatre, under the aegis of recently appointed director Hiroshi Wakasugi, opens its 2007/8 season with Richard Wagner’s 1845 grand Romantic opera “Tannhauser.”

Though an early work in the Wagner canon, “Tannhauser” baffled and awed audiences when it was first performed and set Wagner on the path that did nothing less than revolutionize the world of music.

This tale of the tussle between carnal and spiritual love sows the seeds for many of his more mature works. Themes and techniques he would later explore with greater sophistication and depth are present in a rawer, but no less compelling form: sex and salvation, redemption through love, death and feminine self-sacrifice, song contests and German mythology, and the glorification of art and the artist as hero — all set to a sumptuous score, stirring melodies (even those unfamiliar with the opera will know the “Pilgrims’ Chorus” and the “Evening Star” aria) and a complex, fluid web of motifs to illuminate the action on stage.

This lavish new production — directed by Hans-Peter Lehmann, who has worked on productions at Germany’s Bayreuth Festival — features a largely German cast, with Ricarda Merbeth as Elisabeth, Martin Gantner as Wolfram, Linda Watson as Venus and Albert Bonnema as Tannhauser. It is conducted by French conductor Philippe Auguin.

“Tannhauser” will be performed at the New National Theatre in Hatsudai, Tokyo, on Oct. 14 (2 p.m.), Oct. 17 (2 p.m.), Oct. 21 (2 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (5.30 p.m.).

Tickets can be ordered at (03) 5352-9999, pia.jp/t or eplus.jp (Japanese only); ¥1,500, ¥5,250, ¥8,400, ¥14,700 and ¥26,250.