Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

La Bohème, Manitoba

Manitoba Opera’s first production in nine years of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème still stirs the heart and inspires tears with its tragic tale of bohemian artists living — and loving — in 1840s Paris.

Arizona Opera Presents Don Pasquale in Tucson

On April 12, 2014, Arizona Opera opened its series of performances of Donizetti's Don Pasquale in Tucson. Chuck Hudson’s production of this opera combined Commedia dell’arte with Hollywood movie history.

Will Don Quichotte Be the Last Production at San Diego Opera?

This quotation from Cervantes was displayed before the opening of the opera’s final scene:

“The greatest madness a man can commit in this life is to let himself die, just like that, without anybody killing him or any other hands ending his life except those of melancholy.”

Gound Faust - Calleja and Terfel, Royal Opera House London

Gounod's Faust makes a much welcomed return to the Royal Opera House. With each new cast, the dynamic changes as the balance between singers shifts and brings out new insights. In that sense, every revival is an opportunity to revisit from new perspectives. This time Bryn Terfel sang Méphistophélès, with Joseph Calleja as Faust - stars whose allure certainly helped fill the hall to capacity. And the audience enjoyed a very good show.

Syracuse Opera’s Porgy and Bess
Got Plenty O’ Plenty

The company ends its 2013-14 season on a high note with a staged performance of Gershwin’s theatrical masterpiece

A New Rusalka in Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Antonin Dvorak’s Rusalka is visually impressive and fulfills all possible expectations musically with unquestioned excitement.

Karlsruhe’s Mixed Blessing Ballo

The reliable Badisches Staatstheater has assembled plenty of talent for its new Un Ballo in Maschera.

Louise Alder, Wigmore Hall

This varied, demanding programme indisputably marked soprano Louise Alder as a name to watch.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Powder Her Face, ENO

As one descends the steel steps into the cavernous bunker of Ambika P3, one seems about to enter rather insalubrious realms — just right one might imagine, then, for an opera which delves into the depths of the seedier side of celebrity life.

Iphigénie Fascinates in the Pfalz

Kaiserslautern’s Pfalztheater has produced a tantalizing realization of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide, characterized by intriguing staging, appealing designs, and best of all, superlative musical standards.

ROH presents Cavalli’s L’Ormindo at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London

Never thought I’d say it but......

Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter, Wigmore Hall, London

Celebrating the 80th birthday of one of the UK's greatest composers (if not the greatest), this concert was an intriguing, and not always stimulating, mix. Birtwistle with Carter makes sense, but Birtwistle with Adams does not - or at least only within the remit of the concert series. The concert was actually entitled “Nash Inventions: American and British Masterworks, including an 80th Birthday Tribute to Sir Harrison Birtwistle” and was the final concert in the “Inventions” series.

Requiem for a Lost Opera Company

On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, General Director Ian Campbell of San Diego Opera announced that the company would go out of business at the end of this season. The next day the company performed their long-planned Verdi Requiem with a stellar cast including soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, tenor Piotr Beczala, and bass Ferruccio Furlanetto.

The Met’s Werther a tasty mix of singing, staging, acting and orchestral splendor

Visual elements in Richard Eyre’s striking production offset Massenet’s melodic shortcomings

Chicago’s New Barber of Seville

New productions of repertoire staples such as Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia bear much anticipation for both performers and staging.

Lucia in LA: A Performance to Remember

On March 15, 2014, Los Angeles Opera presented Elkhanah Pulitzer’s production of the opera, which she set in 1885 when women were beginning to be recognized as persons separate from their fathers, brothers and husbands. At that time many European countries were beginning to allow women to own property, obtain higher education, and choose their husbands.

San Diego Opera Presents an All Star Ballo in Maschera

On March 11, 2014, San Diego Opera presented Verdi’s A Masked Ball in a traditional production by Leslie Koenig. Metropolitan Opera star tenor Piotr Beczala was Gustav III, the king of Sweden, and Krassimira Stoyanova gave an insightful portrayal of Amelia, his troubled but innocent love interest.

Anne Schwanewilms, Wigmore Hall

From the moment she walked, resplendent in red, onto the Wigmore Hall platform, Anne Schwanewilms radiated a captivating presence — one that kept the audience enthralled throughout this magnificent programme of Romantic song.

Die Frau ohne Schatten, Royal Opera

Magnificent! Following the first night of this new production of Die Frau ohne Schatten, I quipped that I could forgive an opera house anything for musical performance at this level, whether orchestral, vocal, or, in this case, both.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Tomas Tomasson as the Dutchman and Elisabete Matos as Senta [Photo by Robert Millard courtesy of Los Angeles Opera]
26 Mar 2013

Flying Dutchman at LA Opera

The Los Angeles Opera company opened its spring season in celebration of Richard Wagner's bicentennial with the composer's The Flying Dutchman, written in 1843.

Flying Dutchman at LA Opera

A review by Estelle Gilson

Above: Tomas Tomasson as the Dutchman and Elisabete Matos as Senta [Photo by Robert Millard courtesy of Los Angeles Opera]

 

But what exactly is the flying Dutchman — a ship or a person? The French title of the opera is Le Vaisseau fantôme — The Ghost Ship. Indeed, sailors have it that The Flying Dutchman is a ghostly Dutch Man-of-War lost rounding the Cape of Good Hope, which still appears and disappears mysteriously. Christian mythology describes The Flying Dutchman as a person — as the Wandering Jew of the Ocean, who made a pact with the Devil and must wander eternally until he finds a woman who will love him faithfully.

The wonderful aspect of great tales is that they can be anything and everything to whomever encounters them. Even more wonderful is the fact that they are often transformed into deeper, more meaningful and lasting works by writers and composers of genius. Such is the case of Richard Wagner's musical interpretation, which combines both the nautical and Christian myths.

The story that captivated Wagner's imagination was Heinrich Heine's The Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski in which a young woman in love with the portrait of the flying Dutchman, meets the man when he comes ashore to seek a wife — and pledges to love him forever. When he later doubts her love, and unhappily sets sail again, she throws herself into the sea, after which the Dutchman is redeemed by her sacrifice, and their two souls are united forever.

As James Conlon, Los Angeles' engagingly enthusiastic music director and conductor, told an audience in his customary in brief talk before the opera's performance, Wagner's view of the “Dutchman” as a man in conflict with society, was a reflection of his perception of himself as a revolutionary and a genius neither understood nor appreciated by the crass bourgeois world around him. The Dutchman is a societal outcast, doomed to eternal wandering until he can be saved by a woman's love. Salvation by love that leads to death is a theme that will be central to many of Wagner's succeeding works. Senta, the woman who eventually pledges her love to the Dutchman, is also a social misfit, (as is the cursed Kundry of Parsifal, and wrongly accused Elsa of Lohengrin) In this case, Senta who would rather stare at a ghostly portrait, than sit at a spinning wheel as other “normal” young woman do, is jeered and relentlessly teased by her peers.

Unfortunately, the Company used a production created by Nikolaus Lehnhoff in 2001 for Chicago (presented again in San Francisco in 2004) which veers dramatically from Conlon's view of the work.

Among the major disconnects is the opera's costuming. In this production Senta and the Dutchman — the non conformists are dressed in simple loose cloth garments, whereas the sailors are outfitted in cumbersome silvery space suits. The “normal” young women who according to Wagner's libretto spend their time spinning instead of mooning over a flying Dutchman, here, sit around in black tights, black shoes and black and gold hoop skirts. There are even some who spin themselves on black ballet slippers and manage to look remarkably like Hanukkah dreidels.

There is a story disconnect. In Lehnhoff's version of the last scenes the Dutchman turns his back on Senta believing she does not love him, whereupon the desperate and heartbroken Senta, left alone on stage, dons his black cloak and walks into a gathering mist. Not surprisingly my companion, new to this opera, didn't understand the ending.

And there's a physical — as in too much material — disconnect. Though there are some wonderful lighting effects, this is a dark production — sets and costumes are essentially black and steely gray. Yet most of the opera's action takes place behind a scrim — sometimes two scrims. I have no idea what two scrims do to sound, but if one tries to pierce the visual obscurity using binoculars one sees the performers faces nicely graphed.

Musically, the work fared much better, and featured the thrilling Los Angeles Opera debut of native Angelino, Soprano Julie Makerov, as Senta, when moments before the curtain was to go up, Portuguese soprano Elisabete Matos, felt too ill to perform. Makerov, who had sung the role before, brought a rich, warm voice and dramatic commitment to the role. Baritone Tomas Tomasson, also debuting with the Company offered a lyrical performance as the Dutchman. James Cresswell, whose baritone seems a shade darker than Tomasson's, was a vigorous Daland. Corey Bix did as well as possible in the thankless role of Eric. Tenor Matthew Plenk, in another of the evening's debuts, was moving in the Steersman's tender aria. Ronnita Nicole Miller, a singer I always enjoy, was Senta's nursemaid. The chorus, which plays such a large role in this work, turned in another of its impressive performances. In an unusual final curtain call, Maestro Conlon,who led a taut performance, had the orchestra — horns, violinists and all mount the stage for their share of applause and cheers.

Estelle Gilson


Click here for cast and production information.

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):