By Lynne Gray, PhD
Richard Wagner’s first great operatic masterpiece, Der Fliegende Holländer, is the Met’s HD offering for March. Director François Girard has attempted to resolve some of the work’s more anachronistic aspects by telling the story from the point of view of its heroine, Senta. Be that as it may, the story of a young woman who is so obsessed with a mysterious old portrait that she eventually destroys herself in order to become a part of its haunted world will probably remain a bit of a stretch for many modern opera goers. Spectacular, violently stormy video projections – especially during the (long!) overture – contribute some modernizing magic as well, but in the end this particular Met production gives us a sadly static, darkly depressing reading of some of Wagner’s most glorious music.
The story is, at its heart, a deeply romantic one and reflects the style and temperament of both its time and its author. You might do well in this day and age simply to think of it as a young girl’s vivid, but fanciful dream, rather than a ghost story with any attachment to reality. It is, indeed, a strange dream that involves the title’s eternally damned sea captain. As punishment for invoking the devil while he and his crew struggled to sail their ship through a violent storm, he has been doomed to aimlessly roam the seven seas until Judgment Day. He has, however, been given one small chance for redemption from his ghostly voyaging. He is permitted to set foot on dry land once every seven years to search for a woman, absolutely faithful and pure, who’s selfless, devoted love can save him. It is Senta’s fervent hope and her all-encompassing passion to one day be that woman.
Evgeny Nikitin sings the title role of the tortured Dutch sea captain who finally finds, but then wrongly rejects, his true love. He steps into the role for the originally scheduled Sir Bryn Terfel who most unfortunately broke his ankle last month. The talented Wagnerian company, under the baton of Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, also includes Anja Kampe in her Met debut as Senta and Franz-Josef Selig as her fortune hunting father, Daland, who not recognizing the Dutchman, sells her to him for an eerily glowing golden rock. Sergey Skorokhodov is her ardent but rejected suitor, Erik, and David Portillo is the young Steersman, longing for his sweetheart back home.
In the end, you should consider going to this one for the glorious music, and then enjoy the vocal mastery, the special effects and the dark journey into another world – for two and a half hours with no intermission!
Der Fliegende Holländer will be telecast to the Century 12 and Summit Sierra Theaters Saturday, March 14th at 9:55 AM local time.