Johan Reuter bass baritone; Marjorie Owens, sop.; Franz-Josef Selig, bass; Christopher Ventris, ten.; Miles Mykkanen, ten.; Rosie Aldridge, mezzo. Johannes Debus, cond.; COC Orchestra and Refrain. 4 Seasons Centre, October 7, 2022
After three Pandemic-ridden seasons of cancelled and truncated performances, the Canadian Opera Firm opened its 2022-23 season — hopefully a full one, COVID Gods keen — with a revival of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. This placing manufacturing by Christopher Alden with units by Allen Moyer initially premiered in 1996. It was an unorthodox tackle the Wagner opera, and in consequence it obtained a decidedly combined response on the time.
In three subsequent revivals (2000, 2010, and now 2022), the manufacturing has undergone varied delicate adjustments. The white-faced make-up and the jail inmate-like uniform for Dutchman, portrayed by Richard Paul Fink in 1996, disappeared. In actual fact, the general focus camp-like trappings have been toned down. What has remained unchanged is the unit set which fills up the entire stage, a double-raked picket field, with openings to permit for entry and exits.
With a decidedly Expressionist portrait of the Dutchman prominently displayed even earlier than the curtain rises, the manufacturing has a darkish, sinister environment. Even the “enjoyable” scenes have a quite macabre really feel to the proceedings. Whereas the immovable unit set makes scene adjustments lower than perfect and can seemingly confuse these unfamiliar with the story, the enclosed sides of the set power the voices ahead into the auditorium, making all of the singers sounding big.
For me, the chief pleasure of Dutchman is the magnificent rating. This revival has a particular which means, as this opera occurred to be conductor Johannes Debus’s first project because the newly minted COC Music Director again in 2010. I can’t faux to recollect what his conducting was like 12 years in the past, besides to say that the intervening dozen years undoubtedly has contributed to his inventive development. On Friday, he led the COC forces in a fantastically paced studying of the rating, with simply the correct mix of energy, magnificence, lyricism, and nuance. The sound popping out of the pit was distinctive. It was a efficiency to savour.
For these unfamiliar with the story, right here’s a fast synopsis. The seafaring Dutchman is condemned to sail the seven seas for all eternity, solely allowed to go ashore at some point each seven years seeking a lady who will redeem him by providing her unconditional love – speak about a patriarchal Romanticist idea of redemption! The Dutchman rewards Daland, a sea captain, with untold riches in alternate for the hand of his daughter Senta in marriage. However the jealous Erik, who’s in love with Senta, spoils the whole lot and Senta finally ends up sacrificing herself for the Dutchman’s redemption.
The COC has assembled a effective ensemble for the event. 4 of them are making welcome returns to the Firm. Danish bass-baritone Johan Reuter, Wotan in Die Strollüre (2015), supplied a sympathetic Dutchman and sang with a wealthy, sturdy tone. American soprano Marjorie Owens, Turandot in 2019, impressed along with her large, targeted spinto sound, highly effective high and vocal stamina, albeit with a extra pronounced flutter than I remembered. Kudos to American tenor Miles Mykkanen, final heard in The Nightingale and Different Brief Fables (2018), as a beautiful Steuermann. German bass Franz-Josef Selig, King Marke within the 2013 Tristan und Isolde, sang Daland with an enormous, imposing bass, some incipient unsteadiness to his tone however.
The 2 remaining solid members are new to the COC. British mezzo Rosie Aldridge made an auspicious debut as Mary. Her efficiency was effective sufficient, and it didn’t want among the foolish emoting duties assigned to her character — why on the earth would Mary be holding the Dutchman portrait in what seemed to be a mad dance?
The second debutant was British tenor Christopher Ventris, whom I first heard as Clemente in Hans Werner Henze’s Venus und Adonis in Santa Fe method again in 2000. His stunning lyric tenor has held up effectively within the intervening 22 years, now with added dramatic heft. It was rumoured that he was initially engaged to sing Parsifal, his signature function. It has been indefinitely postponed, instead is that this Dutchman. Ventris made the a lot of the thankless function of Erik, made much more unsympathetic on this manufacturing as he shoots Senta lifeless.
Wagner gave the refrain of The Flying Dutchman among the most gorgeous music to sing, and the success of this work hinges as a lot on the refrain as on the principals and the orchestra. A large shout-out to the COC Refrain for a very nice efficiency, extra exceptional given the lowered rehearsal time because of a rumoured COVID scare.
A curious quirk: there was an sudden intermission, “sudden” for the reason that program indicated none. Proper earlier than the Dutchman-Senta duet, the music stopped, the stage went black, and the curtain got here down. For a fleeting second, I believed it was one other medical emergency, just like the one in La Traviata final Might. Apparently, a late determination was made so as to add an intermission, maybe to assist the COVID-weary viewers take care of sitting in shut quarters for lengthy stretches. It strikes me as pointless, however then given opera audiences are of a sure age, I’m certain a few of them appreciated a washroom break.
As I used to be sitting there with the unimaginable Wagner rating washing over me, I couldn’t assist however suppose how great it was to be again, and to listen to nice music dwell and in particular person once more. Whether or not you’re a religious Wagnerite or just a music lover, this revival of The Flying Dutchman is effectively price experiencing. Six extra performances, on October 9, 13, 15, 19, 21, and 23.
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