Der fliegende Holländer has been subject to some
pretty ropey stagings in London in recent years and it took a concert
performance by Zurich Opera to breathe a fresh wind into the salty tale. Conductor Alain Altinoglu’s reading gave the
work a dramatic and musical weight that belied the work’s early place in
Wagner’s oeuvre. I’ve never heard the
score’s pre-echoes of The Ring so clearly before. Altinoglu took sections at a snail’s pace but
the Philharmonia Zurich rose to thrilling heights of excitement, bolstered by
the performances of a crack line-up of principal singers.
London has been treated to Bryn
Terfel’s Dutchman a number of times and the portrayal is now at an
unprecedented level. Following his recent
Wotan at Covent Garden, he’s simply the best of today’s Wagnerian singers, with
a rare power, subtlety and huge dynamic range. Matti Salminen was a mature Daland but, unlike
some of our own senior singers, his voice is still in remarkably good shape. He
has a presence that equals Terfel’s and the scenes with the two of them were an
exquisite meeting of giants. Anja Kampe impressed
as Senta in Tim Albery’s Royal Opera production and the performance has gained
in stature, although there’s now some discomfort at the top. She succeeds in making perfect sense of a
character that can easily lack believability, without any resort to fanciful
tricks. If all three seemed at full stretch by the conclusion of the work, it
was a sign of total commitment and focus (and who wants to see singers holding back
when they have so much to give?).
It’s a shame that productions these
days (this is based on Zurich Opera’s new staging by Andreas Homoki) seem to
avoid the redemption ending, as the original score renders the end of both the
overture and the complete work earthbound.
It smacks of denial of the opera’s main theme and, hopefully, it’s a
fashion that will pass. The inclusion of
an interval after Act One, breaking the dramatic impetus, was also unwelcome.
Zurich’s male chorus was not large
but made a mighty sound, although the second chorus of phantom sailors denied
us any illusion, as they shuffled onstage and remained solidly present for the
remainder of the performance.
Martin Homrich was a replacement
as Erik and his tenor was a shade light for the role, but Fabio Trümpy‘s sweet-voiced Steurmann was
2012 hasn’t been a vintage year
for stagings, with concert versions representing some of the year’s most
exciting opera performances. A passionately
refined performance by the orchestra and thrilling singing continued the trend,
making this a fine end to the year.