Opera North: The Flying Dutchman
July 3, 2015
[All images courtesy of Opera North]
2015 has been labelled as Opera North’s ‘Wagnerian gap year’ after four instalments from the Ring before next year’s full Ring Cycle. So to keep up morale and discipline in the ranks (both orchestra and chorus) classical genius Richard Farnes has brought us The Flying Dutchman to whet our appetites for the epic productions to come. This is a partially-staged production so we get the orchestra and chorus in full view. But it is still visually spectacular and redolent due to Peter Mumford’s design, a billowing sail which serves as a screen for oceanic projections dominating the proceedings.
In terms of performance too the show is simply breathtaking in its stunning intensity. Béla Perencz as the forlorn Dutchman, doomed to a life of tragedy and ultimate damnation despite his earthly wealth, is a giant colossus of a figure in his sparkling robes (beautifully designed by Fotini Dimou). His voice resonates with all the profundity of his role and is especially resplendent when recounting his search for a loyal wife.
And it is to this end that he asks the assistance of sea captain Daland, played with subtlety and depth by Mats Almgren. Daland is rather too keen to give his daughter away once he knows of the Dutchman’s wealth, but it is easy to see (even for a Wagner novice such as myself) that things are not going to go smoothly. Indeed, rather than any smoothness here it is as tempestuous and wild as the sea the film above continues to project.
Then Alwyn Mellor as Senta, the Dutchman’s object of desire, provides an intense love interest, both in her relationship with previous boyfriend Erik (Mati Turi) and her brooding on a mysterious image of a face which transpires to match the Dutchman’s visage. Against the advice of her nurse (the homely Ceri Williams) she sees it as her duty to sacrifice herself to provide redemption for the stranger.
In this way the truly Wagnerian themes of death, God’s judgement and damnation come to play as big a role as any of the characters. Opera North present here a pièce de résistance that captures all the dramatic depth demanded whilst still being absolutely accessible and amazingly absorbing.
As reviewed 27 June at Leeds Town Hall and touring visit Opera North’s website for more information