A sure sign that a work is well known is that it is being parodied. The best example of this is Richard Wagner’s “Tannhäuser”, which inspired imitations just a few years after its premiere. The most recent example of this tradition can be experienced in the Konzerthaus on Monday at the “Aus den Fugen” festival. “OK Tannhäuser” is the name of the production of the Music Foundation Podium Esslingen, a solo performance in which the actor Mauricio Hölzemann as the queer “Tannhäuser” monologues about love, relationships, jealousy and sex.
The evening is enriched by the recording of previously shot TikTok videos in which you can see him in the early stages of a relationship with the polyamorous “Ello”. There isn’t a continuous framework story, even though it’s clear that things will probably remain “complicated” between the two. None of this has anything to do with the plot of Wagner’s opera; there is no connection between the protagonist and Wagner’s title character.
The title hero revolves around himself
Unfortunately, Joosten Ellée’s directing concept seems surprisingly old-fashioned despite the digital means. Tannhäuser’s angry speeches about love in late capitalism could largely have come from a table chat in a flat share in the 1970s. His reflections on the right and wrong types of relationships, often projected three times onto the walls of the Werner-Otto-Saal, appear narcissistic and mainly revolve around himself.
The TikTok contributions recorded by other users are a funny idea, but they are only used once and do not add a new level to the long-lasting pathos of the evening. The concluding statement to understand “love as a verb” is also well known from Erich Fromm’s works and comes across as precocious rather than insight.
The only reference to Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” is in the musical contributions that frame the performance. Malte Schiller’s very successful arrangements for string quintet and jazz combo let the famous pilgrim choir sound in jazz harmonies that you want to listen to all evening. An interesting new interpretation emerges here, for which Wagner’s chromaticism is unexpectedly well suited. The nine musicians play with such devotion that one could find the answer to “Tannhäuser’s” verbosely extended relationship life here.
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