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 Performances

O/MODƏRNT: Monteverdi in Historical Counterpoint

O/MODƏRNT is Swedish for ‘un/modern’. It is also the name of the festival — curated by artistic director Hugo Ticciati and held annually since 2011 at the Ulriksdal’s Palace Theatre, Confidencen — which aims to look back and celebrate the past ‘by exploring the relationships between the work of old composers and the artistic and intellectual creations of modern culture’.

Late Schumann in context - Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler, London

Matthias Goerne and Menahem Pressler at the Wigmore Hall, London, an intriguing recital on many levels. Goerne programmes are always imaginative, bringing out new perspectives, enhancing our appreciation of the depth and intelligence that makes Lieder such a rewarding experience. Menahem Pressler is extremely experienced as a soloist and chamber musician, but hasn't really ventured into song to the extent that other pianists, like Brendel, Eschenbach or Richter, for starters. He's not the first name that springs to mind as Lieder accompanist. Therein lay the pleasure !

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

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):