Der Fliegende Holländer, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, October 2011

Jeffrey Tate in the orchestra pit gave Wagner’s Flying Dutchman a wonderful clarity, helped of course by the singers, particularly Anja Kampe as a beautifully pure voiced Senta. This was the role in which she made her Covent Garden debut when the production was new in 2009.

The singers for the other main roles are different this time round, but none the worse for that, and the whole cast made a very fine team. Danish bass Stephen Milling came on very strongly at the beginning as a warm-hearted Daland, and Latvian bass-baritone Egils Silins sang the Dutchman with a noble bearing that was extremely effective towards the end when his voice carried enormous power. This was far better than my recollection of his performance in the same role at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in the most frightful production I’ve ever seen. John Tessier gave us a feisty and strongly sung Steersman, and Endrik Wottrich was a forceful and anxious Erik.

Daland’s crew in merry mood, all images Mike Hoban

The huge chorus was in top form, and musically this was excellent, helped enormously by Tim Albery’s production, which fully deserves a revival three seasons after its first appearance. The openness of the stage allows David Finn’s lighting to play a superb part. Singers are occasionally lit in ways that show only their head and shoulders, yet this can change to reveal the whole body, and the use of colours is very clever. Daland is warmly lit, the Dutchman is coldly lit, and when the Dutchman’s crew appear from nowhere they are in an eerie greenish light. This occurs in an enclave of the stage that previously opened up for Daland’s crew — who have been fooling around and even falling into the water — when suddenly … they scatter as the otherworldly crew take their place. After these ghostly sailors have finished their chorus the opening in the stage slowly closes and we see them no more. It’s very effective.

The phantom crew suddenly replaces Daland’s men

The lighting brings out the phantom nature of the Dutchman who perpetually sails the seas, landing only once every seven years to seek salvation in a woman’s undying love. When it appears he may have found redemption this time, he too is cast in a reddish glow, but it is not to be.  As the gangplank to his ship rises, Senta clings on, but in the end she is defeated and takes her place centre stage with her magnificent three-mast model ship, and the lighting does the rest.

It’s a super production with an excellent cast — don’t miss it. Performances continue until November 4 — for details click here — and BBC Radio 3 will broadcast it on November 12 at 6 p.m.

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