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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Met


  Russell Thomas and Hans-Peter K├Ânig/ Ph: Cory Weaver

The only reason to see Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) this month at the Metropolitan Opera is Deborah Voigt. But what a reason.
Voigt, who is performing the role of Senta at the Met for the first time, sings with a stark yet magnetic passion. As Senta, a Norwegian ship captain’s daughter entranced with the tale of the Flying Dutchman – and then with the Dutchman himself – she convincingly conveys, through both music and word, the agony of a woman in turmoil, possessed and obsessed with both myth and man, willing to sacrifice herself for an idea and an ideal. She owns the stage; her robust voice, replete with determination and pathos, rings out with clarity and beauty.
That myth, and that man, is the Dutchman, a ship captain doomed to travel the seas for all eternity unless he can find a woman who will be faithful to him in love. He must return to dry land once every seven years in his search. What a pity then that the Finnish bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo is such a disappointment in the title role. To this listener, he failed to portray, either in his singing or his stage presence, the nature of the cursed and lost Dutchman. His voice, while technically competent, was too often harsh and seemed monotonous in emotion and performance.
Also unfortunately, the conductor, Kazushi Ono, the principal conductor of the Lyon Opera in France, seems at times to be conducting Wagner and at times some unknown, unrelated and not fully accomplished composer. Ono’s missteps begin with the overture, which he morphs from a powerful, cohesive work into music at one moment mighty and the next leaden. It all has a disconnected, disjointed feeling. The one loud boo that soared over the obligatory applause as he took his bows at the end of the evening seemed totally appropriate.
The 1989 August Everding production, last seen at the Met in the 2000-2001 season, effectively created the overwhelming sense of chill and doom, of mystery and fog, that pervades the frozen Norwegian winter. An ice-encrusted ship, the Dutchman’s mammoth and ghostly vessel, the enormous gangplank, the swirling snow that fills the stage at the opera’s climax, combined to accentuate the foreboding. (But why are the women at the start of Act Two sewing and not spinning? They’re singing the Spinning Song, not the Sewing Song.)
There was more to enjoy. Stephen Gould as Erik, a hunter who is Senta’s spurned suitor, was strong and at times lyrical, leaving no doubt about how much he loves and wants her, and how agonized he is at her refusal. Hans-Peter König, as Daland, Senta’s father; Russell Thomas, as Daland’s Steersman; and Wendy White, as Senta’s nurse, were all vocally assured and convincing.
The 1843 opera is early Wagner, but it provides many glimpses of the musical style that would bloom in his mature work. Wagner wrote in his autobiography that when he set out to compose Der Fliegende Holländer he had not been working on music for nine months: “I began first with the Sailors’ Chorus and the Spinning Song. Everything sped along as on wings, and I shouted for joy as I felt within me that I was still a musician.”
Voigt herself has shown that she is a consummate musician, a star dramatic soprano. Next year, she will be singing Brünnhilde in the Met’s new production of Die Walküre. It’s something to look forward to.

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