Magazine article Opera Canada

Edmonton

Magazine article Opera Canada

Edmonton

Article excerpt

Edmonton Opera, which over the past few years has eased its way back to four productions and greater programming risks, opened the 2008/09 season with Der fliegende Hollander, the first Wagner here in 20 years.

The company reunited baritone Jason Howard and soprano Susan Marie Pierson, an intense pairing two years ago in Bluebeard's Castle and Erwartung, as the Dutchman and Senta in an austere, some what restrained production using the set and concept of the 1996 Canadian Opera Company production. This features a frequently bare, off-kilter stage with a massive, rotating gear set in the floor to the left. The device serves as spinning wheel, ship's helm and instrument of torture at various points in the plot. Lighting designer Elizabeth Asselstine's work with what is essentially the interior of a large, angled, weathered-wood box was extraordinary. Moments of harsh glare shifted through ominous shadow to depressing dimness as the moods of Wagner's score unfolded, moods captured powerfully and sensitively by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra under conductor John Keenan.

The tough horn work was impeccable throughout. However, in a brass-heavy work like Hollander, the ESO's constrained violin section was magnified. There was nothing wrong with the strings musically, but good balance with such small forces against the blaring brass on the other side of the pit was haphazard.

Both the men's and women's chorus, bolstered by a few singers from the local Richard Eaton Singers, were consistently entertaining, and the men, in particular, demonstrated a stentorian fervor in the group sailor scenes not always evident in EO productions. …

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