Music: Rebirth of Venus

Richard Wagner was determined to make a name for himself in Paris. So when the Paris Opéra rejected his latest work, Tristan und Isolde, Wagner dusted off his Tannhäuser, which had been produced in Dresden 16 years earlier, and Frenchified it. He wrote new music for a ballet in the first scene and reworked the character and music of the love goddess Venus in his best chromatic, post-Tristan style.

For nearly a century the Paris Tannhäuser remained the most frequently performed version of the opera. Audiences loved the voluptuous new bacchanale; sopranos preferred to...

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