Thursday, May 29, 2008

Opera Lover's Series: Tannhäuser

The Last Judgement, Fra Angelico

Deutsche Sagen, Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm (Brueder Grimm), 1816/18
No. 171

Noble Tannhäuser, a German knight, traveled through many countries and also spent time with the many beautiful women residing in Mistress Venus’s mountain. Passing the time among these fair ladies, he spent his hours gazing upon all the magnificent wonders. For some time he stayed there happily, but his conscience finally urged him to go out and reunite with the world. He longed to take his leave from Venus but she offered to give him anything his heart desired so he would stay. Finally she presented one of her companions to be his wife. He should only remember her red mouth and think of her red lips, which filled every hour with laughter. Tannhäuser replied that he did not desire any other woman than the one he intended for himself for he did not want to burn in eternal hell fire. The red mouth was not important to him. He could not remain because his life had become something sick and foul. But the devilish temptress tried to lure him into her chamber so they could continue to seek the pleasures of love. The noble knight scorned her loudly and called upon the Heavenly Virgin to bring an end to his misery. Filled with remorse, he made a pilgrimage to Rome to seek out Pope Urban. He would confess all his sins to him so that penance would be prescribed and his soul would be saved. But when he confessed that he had passed an entire year with Frau Venus in her mountain, the pope replied: “When this thin staff in my hand sprouts green leaves, then your sins shall be forgiven. Until then, you remain a sinner.” Tannhäuser replied: “And if I only have one year to live on earth, I should show such remorse and penance that God would have mercy on me.” Full of pain and suffering because the pope had damned him, he went out from that city and re-entered the devilish mountain with the intent to live there until eternity. Mistress Venus welcomed him, like one welcomes home a long lost lover. But on the third day the staff began to sprout green buds and the pope sent a message throughout all the countryside to find the noble knight Tannhäuser. But it was too late. He had returned to the Venusberg and to his life of pleasure. Now he must sit there until the Day of Judgement, when God will perhaps deal differently with him. A priest should not dispense such despair and misery to a sinner, but rather grant forgiveness when he comes in penance and remorse.

To read the Wartburg Singing War, Grimm's Saga No. 561, on which the opera Tannhäuser is also based, hit the link: Wartburg Singing War.

You also might be interested in reading  Grimm's Saga No. 542, Lohengrin from Brabant, click on the link.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes true indeed. When a person ids feeling guilty he should be taken care of and not left alone to suffer.