Wagner completed the first version of the opera in 1845 during his tenure as Kapellmeister at the royal court of Dresden, but he continued to redraft and revise it for the rest of his life. The setting is medieval Germany: the minstrel Tannhauser has fallen into sin with the goddess Venus but after a year, in a moment of realisation he demands to leave. He finds himself near his home and is reunited with Elisabeth, a girl he once loved. Elisabeth's uncle, the landgrave, organises a singing competition between Tannhauser and Wolfram, who also loves her. Wolfram's song is simple and moving, while Tannhauser, confused by Venus, outrages the audience by singing of profane love. He is banished to Rome on a pilgrimage to seek redemption, and Elisabeth follows him with Wolfram. After much searching, she gives up and dies, just missing Tannhauser, who Wolfram discovers creeping back to Venus, the Pope having said that it was as impossible for him to be forgiven as for his staff to sprout flowers. Tannhauser sees Elisabeth and casts himself to die by her coffin, and the Pope's staff bursts into bloom.
This is the Schirmer edition of the Vocal Score, edited and translated into English by Natalia MacFarren.