Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.

Sibelius Kullervo, BBC Proms, London

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn't allow it to be heard after its initial performance, though he referred to it fondly in private.

Aïda at Aspen

Most opera professionals, including the individuals who do the casting for major houses, despair of finding performers who can match historical standards of singing in operas such as Aïda. Yet a concert performance in Aspen gives a glimmer of hope. It was led by four younger singers who may be part of the future of Verdi singing in America and the world.

Prom 53: Shostakovich — Orango

One might have been forgiven for thinking that both biology and chronology had gone askew at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday evening.

Written on Skin at Lincoln Center

Three years ago I made what may have been my single worst decision in a half century of attending opera. I wasn’t paying close attention when some conference organizers in Aix-en-Provence offered me two tickets to the premiere of a new opera. I opted instead for what seemed like a sure thing: William Christie conducting some Charpentier.

Pesaro’s Rossini Festival 2015

The 36th Rossini Opera Festival in Rossini’s Pesaro! La gazza ladra (1817), La gazzetta (1816) and L'inganno felice (1812) — the little opera that made Rossini famous.

Santa Fe: Placid Princess of Judea

Unlike the brush fire in a distant neighborhood of the John Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera’s Salome stubbornly failed to ignite.

Airy and Bucolic Glimmerglass Flute

As part of a concerted effort to incorporate local color and resonance into its annual festival, Glimmerglass has re-imagined The Magic Flute in a transformative woodland setting.

Glimmerglass Conquers Cato

Bravura singing and vibrant instrumental playing were on ample display in Glimmerglass Festival’s riveting Cato in Utica.

Energetic Glimmerglass Candide

Bernstein’s Candide seems to have more performance versions than Tales of Hoffmann.

Die Eroberung von Mexico in Salzburg

That’s The Conquest of Mexico, an historical music drama composed in 1991 by German composer Wolfgang Rihm (b. 1952). But wait. Wolfgang Rihm construed a few sentences of Artaud’s La Conquête du Mexique (1932) mixed up with bits of Aztec chant and bits of poem(s) by Mexico’s Octavio Paz (d. 1998) to make a libretto.

Scottish Sensation at Glimmerglass

Glimmerglass is celebrating its 40th Festival season with a stylish new production of Verdi’s Macbeth.

Norma in Salzburg

This Salzburg Norma is not new news. This superb production was first seen at the Salzburg Festival’s springtime Whitsun Festival in 2013 with this same cast. It will now travel to a few major European cities.

The power of music: a young cast in a semi-stage account of Monteverdi’s first opera

John Eliot Gardiner conducted a much anticipated performance of Monteverdi’s first opera L’Orfeo at the BBC Proms on 4 August 2015, with his own Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists.

Cold Mountain Wows Audience at Santa Fe World Premiere

On August 1, 2015, Santa Fe Opera presented the world premiere of Cold Mountain, a brand new opera composed by Pulizer Prize and Grammy winner Jennifer Higdon.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Manon Lescaut, Munich

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich. Some will scream in rage but in its austerity it reaches to the heart of the opera.

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Bryn Terfel as the Dutchman [Photo by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera House]
27 Feb 2009

A restrained Flying Dutchman at the Royal Opera House, London

This Der fliegende Holländer was eagerly awaited as it hasn’t been heard at the Royal Opera House, London, since 2000. With Bryn Terfel’s return to Covent Garden as the Dutchman guaranteed a full house.

Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Bryn Terfel (The Dutchman), Hans-Peter König (Daland), Anja Kampe (Senta), John Tessier (Steersmann), Claire Shearer (Mary), Torsten Kerl (Erik), Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, London. Marc Albrecht (conductor), Tim Albery (director), Renato Balsadonna (chorusmaster)

Above: Bryn Terfel as the Dutchman

All photos by Clive Barda courtesy of The Royal Opera House

 

Terfel’s admirers would not have been disappointed. His voice boomed with authority, impressive for its strength, even when he had to sing dragging a heavy rope across the stage and wade through the real water at the front of the platform. Terfel’s vocal power always impresses, and he has done interesting Dutchmen elsewhere. However, in this production, by Tim Albery, he was not called upon to develop the character. Not long ago, Albery presented Boris Gudonov as stolid, mild-mannered bourgeois. This Dutchman was no more ravaged than Daland. When the women and Daland’s sailors call out to the doomed souls on the haunted ship, they face the audience and shine lights into the auditorium. When the Dutchman’s crew do appear, they’re neatly dressed in uniform, as if they’d never been to sea. Maybe there’s some deep meaning in this, but it could have been thought through with more focus.

Dutchman_Kampe_ROH09.pngAnja Kampe as Senta

The performance was more interesting, though, for what it brought out in the music. That glorious overture is a marvel of dramatic scene-painting, setting the mood for the entire opera. How it’s staged reflects on the whole production. Here it unfolded against a backdrop of green light and projected images of rain, with shadowy figures flitting from left to right. This was interesting, but hardly enough to sustain interest for that period of time. Nor did it vary, although the score itself is characterized by distinct developmental phases. This was disappointing because Marc Albrecht’s conducting shaped these changing themes very clearly, for they define the duality that is fundamental to the whole opera.

Albrecht’s approach revealed the underlying structure. Wagner wields leitmotivs like weapons. By juxtaposing the sailor’s cheery love songs with the savagery of the music associated with the storm and the Dutchman, he draws contrasts, between stability and chaos. Particularly brilliant are the crosscurrents in Act Three, throwing the music of the village against the music of the haunted sailors. This act depicts a “storm on land”, just as the first depicts a storm at sea. Keeping the different ensembles distinct is important here, and takes some sophistication. But the Royal Opera House Chorus excels in intricate ensemble. At last the production sprang to life, animated by the sheer vitality of the singing.

Dutchman_Chorus_ROH09.pngA scene from Der fliegende Holländer with Anja Kampe (Senta) in the foreground

Indeed, the role of the chorus in this opera is sometimes underplayed since attention usually centres on the Dutchman and on Senta. The influence of Weber still hung heavily on Wagner. Some of these choruses are reminiscent of Der Freischütz, another tale of demonic forces. Thus Albrecht’s vignette-like focus reflects episodic “aria” opera tradition rather than the overwhelming sweep of late Wagner in full sail. Der fliegende Holländer is only the first stage of the saga.

Bryn Terfel may have been the big draw, but perhaps this production will be remembered as the moment Anja Kampe made her name. Anyone who can steal a scene from Terfel is worth listening to. From Kampe’s small frame emanated a voice of great power, enhanced by an understanding of Senta’s role. Even before she meets the Dutchman, she fantasizes about him. The other women work in a factory, but Senta is by nature a non-conformist, drawn to the wildness that the Dutchman symbolises. No wonder she knows right away she wants him, not Erik. Senta is the prototype of Wagner’s later heroines who equate love with death, and who find fulfilment in redeeming others. This does reflect in many ways Wagner’s own predicaments, but the archetype becomes wilder and more cataclysmic. Kampe probably has the ability to make much more of such heroines in the future, given the productions that make more of the extreme intensity - madness, even - in these roles. She’s singing Isolde at Glyndebourne this summer, which will be something to look forward to.

Anne Ozorio

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):