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

The Met’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ a happy marriage of ensemble singing and acting

The cast of supporting roles was especially strong in the company’s new production of Mozart’s matchless masterpiece

Syracuse Opera’s ‘Die Fledermaus’ bubbles over with fun, laughter and irresistible music

The company uncorks its 40th Anniversary season with a visually and musically satisfying production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s farcical operetta

Capriccio at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Although performances of Richard Strauss’s last opera Capriccio have increased in recent time, Lyric Opera of Chicago has not experienced the “Konversationsstück für Musik” during the past twenty odd years.

Anna Netrebko, now a dramatic soprano, shines in the Met’s dark and murky ‘Macbeth’

The former lyric soprano holds up well — and survives the intrusive close-up camerawork of the ‘Live in HD’ transmission

Arizona Opera Presents First Mariachi Opera

Houston Grand Opera commissioned Cruzar la Cara de la Luna from composer José “Pepe” Martínez, music director of Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, who wrote the text together with Broadway and opera director Leonard Foglia. The work had its world premier in 2010. Since then, it has traveled to several cities including Paris, Chicago, and San Diego.

Plácido Domingo: I due Foscari, London

“Why should I go to hear Plácido Domingo” someone said when Verdi’s I due Foscari was announced by the Royal Opera House. There are very good reasons for doing so.

Philip Glass’s The Trial

Music Theatre Wales presented the world premiere of Philip Glass’s The Trial (Kafka) last night at the Linbury, Royal Opera House. Music Theatre Wales started doing Glass in 1989. Their production of Glass’s In the Penal Colony in 2010 was such a success that Glass conceived The Trial specially for the company.

Joyce DiDonato: Alcina, Barbican, London

To say that the English Concert’s performance of Handel’s Alcina at the Barbican on 10 October 2014 was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Sold out for weeks, the performance capitalised on the draw of its two principals Joyce DiDonato and Alice Coote and generated the sort of buzz which the work did at its premiere.

A New Don Giovanni and Anniversary at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its sixtieth anniversary season with a new production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni directed by Artistic Director of the Goodman Theater, Robert Falls.

Grande messe des morts, LSO

It was a little over two years ago that I heard Sir Colin Davis conduct the Berlioz Requiem in St Paul’s Cathedral; it was the last time I heard — or indeed saw — him conduct his beloved and loving London Symphony Orchestra.

Guillaume Tell, Welsh National Opera

Part of their Liberty or Death season along with Rossini’s Mose in Egitto and Bizet’s Carmen, Welsh National Opera performed David Pountney’s new production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (seen 4 October 2014).

Mose in Egitto, Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera’s production of Rossini’s Mose in Egitto was the second of two Rossini operas (the other is Guillaume Tell) performed in tandem for their autumn tour.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, Barbican Hall

In Monteverdi’s first Venetian opera, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse (1641), Penelope’s patient devotion as she waits for the return of her beloved Ulysses culminates in the triumph of love and faithfulness; in contrast, in L’incoronazione di Poppea it is the eponymous Queen’s lust, passion and ambition that prevail.

Rameau’s Les Paladins, Wigmore Hall

After the triumphs of love, the surprises: Les Paladins, under their director Jérôme Correas, and soprano Sandrine Piau are following their tour of material from their 2011 CD, ‘Le Triomphe de L’amour’, with a new amatory arrangement.

Puccini : The Girl of the Golden West, ENO London

At the ENO, Puccini's La fanciulla del West becomes The Girl of the Golden West. Hearing this opera in English instead of Italian has its advantages, While we can still hear the exotic, Italianate Madama Butterfly fantasies in the orchestra, in English, we're closer to the original pot-boiler melodrama. Madama Biutterfly is premier cru: The Girl of the Golden West veers closer, at times, to hokum. The new ENO production gets round the implausibility of the plot by engaging with its natural innocence.

Anna Caterina Antonacci, Wigmore Hall, London

Presenting a well-structured and characterful programme, Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci demonstrated her prowess in both soprano and mezzo repertoire in this Wigmore Hall recital, performing European works from the early years of the twentieth century. Assuredly accompanied by her regular pianist Donald Sulzen, Antonacci was self-composed and calm of manner, but also evinced a warmly engaging stage presence throughout.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera

Bold, bright and brash, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s Il barbiere di Siviglia tells its story clearly in complementary primary colours.

Gluck and Bertoni at Bampton

Bampton Classical Opera’s 2014 double bill neatly balanced drollery and gravity. Rectifying the apparent prevailing indifference to the 300th centenary of Christoph Willibald Gluck birth, Bampton offered a sharp, witty production of the composer’s Il Parnaso confuso, pairing this ‘festa teatrale’ with Ferdinando Bertoni’s more sombre Orfeo.

Purcell: A Retrospective

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra launched the Wigmore Hall’s two-year series, ‘Purcell: A Retrospective’, in splendid style. Flexibility, buoyancy and transparency were the watchwords.

Mahler: Symphony no.3 — Prom 73

It would be unfair, but one could summarise this concert with the words, ‘Senator, you’re no Leonard Bernstein.’

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):