Fly­ing Dutch­man suf­fers stag­ing ills

Wag­ner’s score, how­ever, is com­mand­ing

Montreal Gazette - - Arts & Life - ARTHUR KAPTAINIS GAZETTE MU­SIC CRITIC The Fly­ing Dutch­man re­peats Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day in Salle Wil­frid Pel­letier of Place des Arts. Go to www.op­er­ade­mon­ akap­tai­[email protected]­pa­

Yo-ho-ho-yo-ho-ho-ho: Such a great opera, The Fly­ing Dutch­man. And such a pre­ten­tious stag­ing Satur­day in Place des Arts. If your pri­or­ity as an oper­a­goer is to hear Wag­ner’s score, by all means in­vest in one of the re­peat per­for­mances. Maybe leave the opera glasses at home.

To be fair, there are some di­vert­ing vi­su­als in this Cana­dian Opera Com­pany pro­duc­tion, re­worked by the Opéra de Mon­tréal.

But the main achieve­ment is mu­si­cal.

Tear­ing a page from the Kent Nagano playbook, the Montreal com­pany has hired a squad of Ger­man prin­ci­pals, all equal to the roles. Maida Hun­del­ing ap­plied a fierce dra­matic so­prano sound to the role of Senta, com­pen­sat­ing for the stiff block­ing im­posed on her by the artis­tic team. Tenor En­drik Wot­trich as Erik was sturdy of tone and a com­pelling ac­tor. Why not set­tle for this hon­est, rugged hunter rather than chase a sickly sea-cap­tain?

It was, of course, the de­ci­sion of the Amer­i­can re­vi­sion­ist di­rec­tor Christo­pher Alden (here sec­onded by Mar­i­lyn Grons­dal) to make a weak­ling of the ti­tle char­ac­ter, con­stantly grip­ping his over­coat at the col­lar as if he might catch a cold from those nasty sea breezes. Bass-bari­tone Thomas Gazheli did what he could un­der the cir­cum­stances, croon­ing in his mono­logue, but open­ing up vo­cally at the end. The avari­cious Cap­tain Da­land had no such “in­ter­pre­ta­tion” to project so it was not sur­pris­ing that bass Rein­hard Ha­gen made a strong im­pres­sion. The Cana­dian tenor Kurt Lehmann was lyri­cal as the Helms­man, who is asked in this pro­duc­tion to do much more than the li­bretto re­quires.

To list all the te­dious di­ver­gences from what Wag­ner asked for would re­quire a full-page fea­ture. Cos­tum­ing was vaguely early-20th cen­tury, al­though I sup­pose the Dutch­man’s jail­bird striped py­ja­mas could be taken as time­less. Sailors turned up at the be­gin­ning of Act 3 in for­mal black at­tire, in­clud­ing arm­bands, en­abling the manda­tory gra­tu­itous ref­er­ence to Nazism. Or was the fas­cism here Ir­ish, the pre­dom­i­nant colour be­ing green?

Alien­ation is the ubertheme in this pro­duc­tion, so when the Dutch­man makes his first ap­pear­ance in Act 2, it is with his back to Senta and the au­di­ence. Like Senta, who car­ries around a Ed­vardMunch-like por­trait of the Dutch­man, he stares at an im­age, this one held at arm’s length. Thought-pro­vok­ing, I am sure.

The gross­est vi­o­la­tion is saved for the end. Per­haps I should ob­serve spoiler pro­to­col here, al­though it is amus­ing that the OdM it­self hinted at the out­come by an­nounc­ing that a gun­shot would be heard in the course of the show.

The set is a harshly lit shoe­box on a tilt. A gi­ant wheel, look­ing like some­thing from an in­dus­trial-age fac­tory, serves as the helm and a spi­ral stair­case ac­com­mo­dates the Dutch­man’s apoth­e­o­sis. Strik­ing enough on its own terms, it would work nicely as the set for some­thing ex­pres­sion­is­tic from the 1920s.

Its only ben­e­fit in this pre­sen­ta­tion was as an acous­tic am­phithe­atre for the voices, in­clud­ing those of the ro­bust OdM Cho­rus. The Orchestre Métropoli­tain was also on form, at least af­ter warm­ing up in the over­ture. Ker­i­Lynn Wil­son, a Cana­dian con­duc­tor, led the score with an unerring sense of over­all pro­por­tion and bar-to-bar drama.


Bass-bari­tone Thomas Gazheli crooned in his mono­logue, but opened up vo­cally at the end.

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