Der fliegende Holländer, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO, June 2018Posted on 14 June 2018
This was musically terrific, and what a refreshing change to see a simple staging of Wagner that stays true to the essence of the story without fancy directorial accoutrements.
As the overture ends slow moving figures pass across the stage carrying model houses and a lighthouse, like the chorus in a Greek drama, reminding us that Wagner wanted to recreate Greek tragedy in a modern setting with music at its core. As the opera opens out we hear the glorious tenor of William Wallace as the Helmsman, before he falls asleep and Simon Thorpe as the Dutchman enters. With Wotan-like intensity he takes the drama to depths unknown to the engaging Daland of Richard Wiegold and his vocally powerful crew.
After this compelling Act I the gentle Summ’ und Brumm’ of the spinning maids in Daland’s house contrasts beautifully with the visceral passion shown by Kirstin Sharpin as Senta, making her Longborough debut, her duet with the Dutchman showing a gripping intensity. By remaining faithful to Wagner’s ideas and keeping the staging simple, director Thomas Guthrie with his designer Ruth Paton and lighting designer Ben Ormerod bring such clarity to this opera that its impact is far greater than many more elaborate productions, including the current one at Bayreuth.
As Act III opens after the long interval, Daland’s crew perform some excellently robust choreography before the ghostly sounds of the Dutchman’s invisible crew are heard, and the strong and forceful tenor of Jonathan Stoughton (recovering from a throat infection) as Erik causes the Dutchman to reject his planned wedding with Senta. Redemption has been denied, and yet … in this production Senta’s determination to remain faithful unto death is clearly accomplished, and the final moments are tremendously moving.
A thrilling and marvellously simple production, but what really makes it all work is the fantastic teamwork of orchestra and singers under the baton of expert Wagnerian Anthony Negus. As good a production of Dutchman as I ever remember seeing, with outstanding performances by Simon Thorpe and Kirstin Sharpin. Winner of the Wagner Voices competition at Karlsruhe in 2015 and a compelling Leonore at Buxton in 2016, Ms Sharpin showed such power and commitment that we may all expect to hear more of her in future Wagner roles.
A wonderful evening and a Dutchmanto remember.