Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

Eine florentinische Tragödie and I pagliacci in Monte-Carlo

An evening of strange-bedfellow one-acts in high-concept stagings, mindbogglingly delightful.

Carmen, Pacific Symphony

On February 19, 2015, Pacific Symphony presented its annual performance of a semi-staged opera. This year’s presentation at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, featured Georges Bizet’s Carmen. Director Dean Anthony used the front of the stage and a few solid set pieces by Scenic Designer Matt Scarpino to depict the opera’s various scenes.

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, ENO

Although the English National Opera has been decidedly sparing with its Wagner for quite some time now, its recent track record, leaving aside a disastrous Ring, has perhaps been better than that at Covent Garden.

San Diego Opera presents an excellent Don Giovanni

On Friday February 20, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a production by Nicholas Muni originally seen at Cincinnati Opera.

Tosca at Chicago Lyric

In a production first seen in Houston several years ago, and now revised by its director John Caird, Puccini’s Tosca has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago with two casts, partially different, scheduled into March of the present season.

Henri Dutilleux: Correspondances

Henri Dutilleux’s music has its devotees. I am yet to join their ranks, but had no reason to think this was not an admirable performance of his song-cycle Correspondances.

LA Opera Revives The Ghosts of Versailles

In 1980, the Metropolitan Opera commissioned composer John Corigliano to write an opera celebrating the company’s one-hundredth anniversary. It was to be ready in 1983.

La Traviata, ENO

English National Opera’s revival of Peter Konwitschny’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata had many elements in common with the production’s original outing in 2013 (The production was a co-production with Opera Graz, where it had debuted in 2011).

Idomeneo in Lyon

You might believe you could go to an opera and take in what you see at face value. But if you did that just now in Lyon you would have had no idea what was going on.

Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera

I wonder whether we need a new way of thinking — and talking — about operatic ‘revivals’. Perhaps the term is more meaningful when it comes to works that have been dead and buried for years, before being rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Iphigénie en Tauride in Geneva

Hopefully this brilliant new production of Iphigénie en Tauride from the Grand Théâtre de Genève will find its way to the new world now that Gluck’s masterpiece has been introduced to American audiences.

Tristan et Isolde in Toulouse

Tristan first appeared on the stage of the Théâtre du Capitole in 1928, sung in French, the same language that served its 1942 production even with Wehrmacht tanks parked in front of the opera house.

Arizona Opera presents Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

Arizona Opera presented Eugene Onegin during and 1999-2000 season and again on February 1 of this year as part of the 2014-2015 season. In this country Onegin is not a crowd pleaser like La Bohème or Carmen, but its story is believable and its music melodic and memorable. Just hum the beginning of the “Polonaise” and your friends will know the music, if not where it comes from.

Ernst Krenek: Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen, Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Florian Boesch and Roger Vignoles at the Wigmore Hall in Ernst Krenek’s Reisebuch aus den österreichischen Alpen. Matthias Goerne has called Hanns Eisler’s Hollywooder Liederbuch the Winterreise of the 20th century. Boesch and Vignoles showed how Krenek’s Reisebuch is a journey of discovery into identity at an era of extreme social change. It is a parable, indeed, of modern times.

Anna Bolena at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new Anna Bolena, a production shared with Minnesota Opera, features a distinguished cast including several notable premieres.

San Diego Celebrates 50th Year with La Bohème

On Tuesday January 27, 2015, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme. It is the opera with which the company opened in 1965 and a work that the company has faithfully performed every five years since then.

English Pocket Opera Company: Verdi’s Macbeth

Last year we tracked Orfeo on his desperate search for his lost Euridice, through the labyrinths and studio spaces of Central St Martin’s; this year we were plunged into Macbeth’s tragic pursuit of power in the bare blackness of the CSM’s Platform Theatre.

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Béla Bartók’s only opera, Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, composed in 1911 and based upon a libretto by the Hungarian writer Béla Balázs, was not initially a success.

Katia Kabanova in Toulon

Káťa Kabanová is, they say, Janáček's first mature opera — it comes a mere 20 years after his masterpiece, Jenůfa.

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):