Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.

Riveting Maria de San Diego

As part of its continuing, adventurous “Detour” series, San Diego Opera mounted a deliciously moody, proudly pulsating, wholly evocative presentation of Astor Piazzolla’s “nuevo tango” opera, Maria de Buenos Aires.



Bryn Terfel as the Dutchman [Photo ROH/Clive Barda]
08 Feb 2015

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.

Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera, London, 5th February 2015

A review by Mark Berry

Above: Bryn Terfel as the Dutchman

Photos © ROH. Photographer: Clive Barda.


However, when it comes to productions, I cannot help but think that it increasingly obscures rather than aids understanding. Where, after all, has the production been in the mean time? Hades?

More to the point, though, I think we tend to underestimate, at least in many cases, the role of the revival director. (The often problematical ‘repertory system employed in many German theatres is a different matter; I am thinking here of theatres operating according to what is essentially a stagione principle.) In this particular case, Daniel Dooner seemed to make a better job of ‘reviving’ Tim Albery’s production of The Flying Dutchman than Albery had made of presenting it in the first place. Or was it a matter of a better-adjusted cast? The one does not exclude the other, of course; indeed, the two are not unlikely to have been related.

150202_0198 hollander-Edit-2 adj ADRIANNE PIECZONKA AS SENTA (C) ROH. PHOTOGRAPHER CLIVE BARDA.pngAdrianne Pieczonka as Senta

The 2009 ‘premiere’ had greatly disappointed, eschewing Wagner’s interest in myth for a form of dreary realism, quite out of place and seemingly determined — understandably, I suppose, given its misguided premise — to downplay the figure of the Dutchman as much as possible. It did not make sense and it did not involve. The irritants have not entirely gone away, especially during the third act, in which the drunken antics of the townsfolk — here, it must be admitted, very well portrayed by the chorus and Ed Lyon’s Steersman — still seem to be far too much ‘the point’. But they are counterbalanced and, on occasion, supplanted by a stronger sense of the Dutchman’s plight and its consequences. ‘Revival’ seems something of a misnomer for a hugely beneficial shift of emphasis, unless we mean that the work itself experiences something of a revival — which, I think, it does, at least vis-à-vis its outing six years ago.

Bryn Terfel’s performance certainly seems less ‘revived’ than brought to life for the first time. In 2009, he had disappointed perhaps even more than the production. There were still occasional unwelcome tendencies towards crooning, especially towards the end of his first-act monologue. They were occasional, though, and Terfel followed up his excellent Proms Walküre Wotan — almost certainly the best thing I have heard him sing — with a world-weary Dutchman who, moments of tiredness aside, yet had powers of something mysterious in reserve for when the moment called. This time the words were not only crystal-clear- always a formidable weapon in Terfel’s armoury — but invested with a true sense of dramatic meaning.

Adrianne Pieczonka’s Senta was at least his equal in terms of dramatic commitment; arguably, this thrilling, unmistakeably womanly performance went still further. I say ‘womanly’ since this was a reading that seemed thoroughly in keeping with a recent, welcome understanding of Wagner’s earlier heroines to be more than virginal male projections. Peter Rose made the most of Daland’s character: venal, yes, but also looking to the future for his daughter as well as himself. Michael König offered an alert Erik, Catherine Wyn-Rogers a properly maternal Mary. Often threatening to steal the show was Lyon’s Steersman, as fine a portrayal as I can recall: an everyman, perhaps, but one with agency, for which verbal and musical acuity alike should be thanked.

150202_0095 hollander adj ED LYON AS STEERSMAN (C) ROH. PHOTOGRAPHER CLIVE BARDA.pngEd Lyon as the Steersman

Andris Nelsons’s conducting for the most part brought out the best from the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. However, the interpretation as a whole did not seem quite to have settled; I strongly suspect that subsequent performances will impress more. The Flying Dutchman is a difficult work to bring off; despite fashionable claims for overplaying its (alleged) antecedents, it really works best as a whole when viewed, as Wagner would later do so, in the light of his subsequent musico-dramatic theories. Senta’s Ballad may not originally have been its dramatic kernel, but it has become so. Nelsons sometimes seemed unclear which way to tilt, especially during a drawn-out Overture, whose extremes of tempo threatened to negate any sense of unity. There were sluggish passages elsewhere: not hugely drawn out, but enough to make one wonder where the music was heading. The third act emerged tightest, and may well be a pointer to what audiences will hear later in the run. Choral singing was not entirely free of blurred edges, but there was much to admire, and again, I suspect that slight shortcomings will soon be overcome. This remained an impressive ‘revival’, all the more so, given its manifest superiority to the production’s first outing.

Mark Berry

Cast and production information:

The Dutchman: Bryn Terfel; Senta: Adrianne Pieczonka; Daland: Peter Rose; Erik: Michael König; Mary: Catherine Wyn-Rogers; Steersman: Ed Lyon. Director: Tim Albery: Revival director: Daniel Dooner; Set Designs: Michael Levine; Costumes: Constance Hoffmann; Lighting: David Finn. Chorus of the Royal Opera House (chorus master: Renato Balsadonna)/Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Andris Nelsons (conductor). Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Thursday 5 February 2015.

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):