Der Fliegender Hollander

By Reed, Peter | Musical Opinion, March/April 2012 | Go to article overview

Der Fliegender Hollander


Reed, Peter, Musical Opinion


Royal Opera House

The first revival of Tim Albery's production, first seen in February 2009, performed at Covent garden on OctoberlS without interval, with the Dresden ending denying any hope of release and redemption for Senta and the Dutchman. The projections playing on to a billowing front curtain set up the storm of the overture with plenty of rain and the intermittent beam of a lighthouse well enough, although it outstayed its welcome. The drab industrial ugliness of contemporary maritime life was efficiently evoked by Michael Levine's curved abstract metallic set, and it didn't detract from the opera's dreamlike narration of Senta's obsession for an undead sailor, although the set's height raised unrealised expectations of a redemptive, suiddal leap. For the spinning scene, a bank of sewing machines suggested a sweat-shop clothes factory somewhere in bleak, 1970s eastern Europe; the ghoulish crew appeared, to great effect, in the middle of the partying sailors; and the Dutchman overheard and misconstrued Senta's and Erik's conversation from a steeply raked gangplank.

Senta's obsession was neatly signalled by her appearance, during the Dutchman's 'Die Frist ist um', clutching a model of the Dutchman's ship and setting it and her fantasies afloat on a pool of water. Even before they've met, they are made for each other and he is her only means of escape from a drab life. The only supernatural frisson was the first appearance of the phantom vessel, a shadow that flowed across the stage, draining all light - very Harry Potter.

Albery's uncompromising, monolithic staging could have worked better if there had been more flow to the music. In whichever version of the Dutchman, with or without interval, the opera shamelessly parades its seams. Scenes block into each other, and, by any standards, not just Wagner's, the action fairly rips along. …

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