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

Bartoli a dream Cenerentola in Amsterdam

With her irresistible cocktail of spontaneity and virtuosity, Cecilia Bartoli is a beloved favourite of Amsterdam audiences. In triple celebratory mode, the Italian mezzo-soprano chose Rossini’s La Cenerentola, whose bicentenary is this year, to mark twenty years of performing at the Concertgebouw, and her twenty-fifth performance at its Main Hall.

Winterreise : a parallel journey

Matthew Rose and Gary Matthewman Winterreise: a Parallel Journey at the Wigmore Hall, a recital with extras. Schubert's winter journey reflects the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, where images act as signposts mapping the protagonist's psychological journey.

Anna Bolena in Lisbon

Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, composed in 1830, didn’t make it to Lisbon until 1843 when there were 14 performances at its magnificent Teatro São Carlos (opened 1793), and there were 17 more performances spread over the next two decades. The entire twentieth century saw but three (3) performances in this European capital.

Oh, What a Night in San Jose

It is difficult to know where to begin to praise the stunning achievement of Opera San Jose’s West Coast premiere of Silent Night.

Billy Budd in Madrid

Like Carmen, Billy Budd is an operatic personage of such breadth and depth that he becomes unique to everyone. This signals that there is no Billy Budd (or Carmen) who will satisfy everyone. And like Carmen, Billy Budd may be indestructible because the opera will always mean something to someone.

A riveting Nixon in China at the Concertgebouw

American composer John Adams turns 70 this year. By way of celebration no less than seven concerts in this season’s NTR ZaterdagMatinee series feature works by Adams, including this concert version of his first opera, Nixon in China.

English song: shadows and reflections

Despite the freshness, passion and directness, and occasional wry quirkiness, of many of the works which formed this lunchtime recital at the Wigmore Hall - given by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, pianist James Baillieu and viola player Guy Pomeroy - a shadow lingered over the quiet nostalgia and pastoral eloquence of the quintessentially ‘English’ works performed.

A charming Pirates of Penzance revival at ENO

'Nobody does Gilbert and Sullivan anymore.’ This was the comment from many of my friends when I mentioned the revival of Mike Leigh's 2015 production of The Pirates of Penzance at English National Opera (ENO). Whilst not completely true (English Touring Opera is doing Patience next month), this reflects the way performances of G&S have rather dropped out of the mainstream. That Leigh's production takes the opera on its own terms and does not try to send it up, made it doubly welcome.

A Relevant Madama Butterfly

On Feb 3, 2017, Arizona Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s dramatic opera Madama Butterfly. Sandra Lopez was the naive fifteen-year-old who falls hopelessly in love with the American Naval Officer.

Johan Reuter sings Brahms with Wiener Philharmoniker

In the last of my three day adventure, I headed to Vienna for the Wiener Philharmoniker at the Musikverein (my first time!) for Mahler and Brahms.

Gatti and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Head to Asia

In Amsterdam legend Janine Jansen and the seventh Principal Conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw, Daniele Gatti, came together for their first engagement in a ravishing performance of Berg’s Violin Concerto.

Verdi’s Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker

I extravagantly scheduled hearing the Berliner, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Wiener Philharmoniker, to hear these three top orchestra perform their series programmes opening the New Year.

Jeanne d'Arc au bûcher in Lyon

There is no bigger or more prestigious name in avant-garde French theater than Romeo Castellucci (b. 1960), the Italian metteur en scène of this revival of Arthur Honegger’s mystère lyrique, Joan of Arc at the Stake (1938) at the Opéra Nouvel in Lyon.

A New Look at Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio

On January 28, 2017, Los Angeles Opera premiered James Robinson’s nineteen twenties production of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, which places the story on the Orient Express. Since Abduction is a work with spoken dialogue like The Magic Flute, the cast sang their music in German and spoke their lines in English.

Giasone in Geneva

Fecund Jason, father of his wife Isifile’s twins and as well father of his seductress Medea’s twins, does indeed have a problem — he prefers to sleep with and wed Medea. In this resurrection of the most famous opera of the seventeenth century he evidently also sleeps with Hercules.

Falstaff in Genoa

A Falstaff that raised-the-bar ever higher, this was a posthumous resurrection of Luca Ronconi’s masterful staging of Verdi’s last opera, the third from last of the 83 operas Ronconi staged during his lifetime (1933-2015). And his third staging of Falstaff following Salzburg in 1993 and Florence in 2006.

Traviata in Seattle

One of Aidan Lang’s first initiatives as artistic director of Seattle Opera was to encourage his board to formulate a “mission statement” for the fifty-year old company. The document produced was clear, simple, and anodyne. Seattle Opera would aim above all to create work appealing both to the emotions and reason of the audience.

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part II: Kasper Holten’s angelic Lohengrin

Contrary to Stolzi’s multidimensional Parsifal, Holten’s simple setting of Lohengrin felt timeless with its focus on the drama between characters. Premiering in 2012, nothing too flashy and with a clever twist,

Wagner at the Deutsche Oper Berlin Part I: Stölzl’s Psychedelic Parsifal

Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB) consistently serves up superlatively sung Wagner productions. This Fall, its productions of Philipp Stölzl's Parsifal and Kasper Holten's Lohengrin offered intoxicating musical affairs. Annette Dasch, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Peter Seiffert reached for the stars. Even when it comes down to last minute replacements, the casting is topnotch.

Donna abbandonata: Temple Song Series

Donna abbandonata would have been a good title for the first concert of Temple Music’s 2017 Song Series. Indeed, mezzo-soprano Christine Rice seems to be making a habit of playing abandoned women.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

A scene from Der fliegende Holländer [Photo courtesy of Bayerische Staatsoper]
19 Jun 2009

No Redemption for Munich’s Dutchman

Although there was considerable theatrical imagination on display, redemption was in critically short supply in Peter Konwitschny's production of The Flying Dutchman at Munich’s estimable Bavarian State Opera.

Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Daland: Matti Salminen; Senta: Anja Kampe; Erik: Endrik Wottrich; Mary: Julia Oesch; Der Steuermann: Kevin Conners; Der Holländer: Bryn Terfel. Musikalische Leitung: Cornelius Meister. Inszenierung: Peter Konwitschny. Produktionsdramaturgie: Werner Hintze. Bühne und Kostüme: Johannes Leiacker. Chöre: Andrés Máspero. Licht: Michael Bauer.

Above: A scene from Der fliegende Holländer

All photos courtesy of Bayerische Staatsoper

 

It all began very promisingly indeed with a realistic period setting, gorgeously painted, and with luxurious Old Dutch Masters costumes, both designs courtesy of Johannes Leiacker. I was not completely taken with the invention of the mute character “An Angel” (Christina Polzin) who somewhat tailed the leading man as a premonition of Senta, I guess, but never mind. Because, in a stunning directorial stroke, Konwitschny set the second act ladies in a gleaming white contemporary fitness center spinning class! No fooling, this really worked. Mary was the attendant who circulated and dispensed water bottles and towels.

Dutchman_Munich03.gifErik entered in a white bathrobe and slippers (apparently having taken a sauna) and it is hard to explain the rather carnal element that that visual introduced into a scene that we usually simply suffer through. And when the Dutchman arrived, completely anachronistic in his period Flemish drag, wow! Did it ever hammer home the time warp he was trapped in, and the irrational inevitability of Senta’s obsession. This was truly powerful theatre, heightened by the fine lighting design with its isolated areas by Michael Bauer.

And then…Peter lost his way. The final act took place in a harbor-side warehouse with Fest tables/benches, the Dutchman crew visibly partied stage left, and lots of metal drums filled with flammable materials crowded the stage. The face-off between the locals and the spooks, shorn of its element of surprise, looked like a lame “Dance at the Gym” confrontation from West Side Story. And in a critical artistic mis-step, after Senta’s last outburst she torched one of the storage drums, and a huge explosion blew everyone away. Everyone.

And…The…Music…Stopped.

Somewhere in the far distance, perhaps on a boom box in the ladies dressing room, we faintly heard the final bars playing as the cast was revealed standing down lit and ghostly behind a scrim. Dead as door nails. Or Dutchmen. In a box, house left, a pained spectator yelled “For God’s sake, play the rest of the music!” No one shushed him. He was articulating our collective grief.

It is inconceivable that the producers allowed Wagner’s opera to be shorn of its soaring redemption at the expense of an ineffective and inappropriate theatrical effect. Nor can I conceive that a Bernstein, or Karajan, or Maazel, or Barenboim would have allowed this musical cut to happen.

Dutchman_Munich01.gif

Apparently, young (talented) conductor Cornelius Meister did not have such leverage. Maestro Meister is the youngest General Music Director in Germany (Heidelberg) and his star is justifiably rising. Much of his leadership was richly incisive, with well-judged tempi and fine consideration of his singers. But it has to be said that the tricky ensemble woodwind attacci were a might ragged, and the brass were too many times perfunctory. The string section however, had a fantastic night characterized by warm and accurate tutti playing.

Even a willful re-writing of the story by a bad boy stage director, however, could not steal the focus from the brilliance of Bryn Terfel’s assumption of the title role. Surely this is one of the most glorious vocal instruments currently to be heard in the lyric theatre. From his first intense sotto voce utterance, Mr. Terfel served notice that his Dutchman was more resigned than tortured, more refined than bombastic, more rounded and musical by miles than most park-and-bark Wagnerian practitioners.

That rolling, richly burnished tone poured out with ease and power, and his acting was subtle and noble. His great duet with Senta was as tender and persuasive as I have yet experienced, and his stamina and sound technique found him sounding as fresh at opera’s end as at the start. Richly colored, finely detailed, superbly shaped phrases characterized Terfel’s tremendous musicianship, and they were wedded to an easy, engaging stage presence. If we are ever searching for members of A New Golden Age (and aren’t we always?), we can start with Bryn Terfel.

Dutchman_Munich02.gif

He was not alone in his success. Anje Kampe served up a radiant and vocally generous Senta, building on her already fine reputation as a Sieglinde of choice. While ample in volume, and secure in all ranges and volumes, the voice is just a bit drier than, say, Hildegard Behrens, a great Senta of the recent past. Still, her restrained vibrato made Ms. Kampe’s impersonation more youthful than womanly, and that certainly was a rewarding take. Her acting was passionately committed.

Nikolai Schukoff was a very fine Erik, with plenty of thrust to his substantial, essentially lyric tenor, and a handsome and youthful stage presence. There were plenty of sparks between him and our doomed heroine. I first saw Matti Salminen’s seasoned Daland in Savonlinna some years ago and his definitive performance has only deepened over time, with very little perceptible loss in vocal allure or power. Julia Oesch contributed a handsome, securely sung Mary. Kevin Conners seems to be a local favorite, but I found his stentorian Steersman a bit longer on power than finesse. The hard-working chorus performed well under the direction of Andrés Máspero.

Can this Dutchman yet be saved? Restoring the finale Wagner wrote would be a good start. Seriously, a musically and dramatically honest re-look of Act Three could transform this otherwise inventive and rewarding production into a memorable one.

James Sohre

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):