[MR] Wikipedia: Tannhäuser: Real, Legendary, and Operatic
Garth Groff and Sally Sanford
mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Mon Jun 19 03:37:08 PDT 2023
"Today's Featured Picture" on Wikipedia shows a painted set for Act III of
Richard Wagner's *Tannhäuser*. Wagner turned to the German legend of a
knight and "minnesinger" (a type of troubadour) who discovers the
Venusberg, a secret cave where the goddess Venus dwells. He dedicates
himself to the goddess, thereby damning his soul from Christian salvation.
Later Tannhäuser seeks absolution, but is denied by the Pope. Tannhäuser
then returns to the cave to spend the rest of his life with Venus.
Tannhäuser was apparently a real noble and singer who lived in the 13th
century, although much about him is shadowy. A 14th century work, "Codex
Manessa" depicts him as a knight of the Teutonic Order, but this might have
been a "literary" promotion.
The legend Tannhäuser's fall from grace also dates from the 14th century.
The story actually is a somewhat older legend into which the
historical Tannhäuser was inserted. Similar legends of people lost to fairy
folk are part of many European traditions, and are especially popular in
Ireland and Britain. The Irish version was made into the 1959 Disney film
"Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (which ends happily for Darby, as in
most Disney works of the time).
It is understandably difficult for some people to set aside Richard
Wagner's sub-themes of anti-Semitism (learning about this seriously
dampened my own enjoyment of Wagner's music), and the way the Nazis later
used his works to promote their cause. However, the story itself is part of
a broader and older medieval European folk tradition. Wagner's music, as
pure music, remains an important part of European cultural heritage.
Tannhäuser, the man and the legend, are further discussed at
The myth of the Venusberg is covered at
More about minnesingers is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesang .
Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge 🦆
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