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The minstrel Tannhäuser is torn between the sensual love of the goddess Venus, whom he rejects, and the spiritual love of Elisabeth, niece of the local ruler. Tannhäuser had left the principality with harsh words in his pursuit of Venus but is welcomed back. A song contest is held before Elisabeth; the usual sentiments of chivalric love are expressed, which drive Tannhäuser to proclaim the virtues of sexual love. Horrified, the knights demand that he go to Rome to be forgiven for having lived with Venus. Elisabeth loves Tannhäuser and prays for him constantly. He returns from Rome, denounced by the Pope and seeking Venus. The mention of Elisabeth’s name turns him around, however. She has died, believing him lost; he dies, asking for her help. Pilgrims hold aloft a flowering staff, a miracle demanded by the Pope before Tannhäuser could be saved.

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Photo Credit

Tannhäuser, 1984 © Chris Bennion