Everyone should see at least one Wagner opera in their life, and The Flying Dutchman could be the perfect choice. While most of the composer’s creations last five hours, you’ll be in and out of this opera in just over two, and, given the amount it packs into that time, it could be a 120 minutes that changes your life!
Although the legend of The Flying Dutchman, in which the eponymous captain is condemned to sail the seas for eternity, is grounded in literature and legend, Jonathan Kent’s new production for English National Opera makes the characters and settings feel very human. The Overture (superbly led by Edward Gardner making his debut conducting Wagner) sees projections create a ship tossing on the sea, which later crashes spectacularly onto the stage. The factory women appropriately make ships in a bottle, while the sailors’ celebrations are both exciting and exuberant.
From amongst the strong cast, Orla Boylan as Senta, with whom the Dutchman’s potential salvation lies, stands out, with her resonant voice, strong vibrato and emotional rendering of the ballad. James Creswell as the Dutchman has a firm, expansive tone, Clive Bayley is an effective Daland and Stuart Skelton a splendid Erik.
Not everything about the production works. Pushing the revelries so hard that Senta is almost raped does not make sense, while hearing an amplified ghosts’ chorus from off-stage presumably reflects budgetary constraints. Still, with such an exciting production, and tickets starting from just £22, there has probably never been a better time to experience Wagner.
Until 23 May (seven performances). Tickets: 0871 911 0200 or from the ENO website.
Photo: Flying Dutchmans don’t come more colourful than this! © Robert Workman.