19-27 Nov 2004. Conducted by Oleg Caetani, directed by Ulderico Manani, with Franz Grundheber, Keith Olsen, Elisabeth Meyer-Topsoe. In German.

First performed on 2 January 1843, Der Fliegende Hollnder is the second opera of Wagners maturity, and represents a great advance on its predecessor, Rienzi, first produced only the year before. The influence of the dramatic and forceful singing of Wilhelmine Schrder-Devrient, the main female protagonist at the premieres of both these works, who had been responsible for the success of Fidelio 20 years earlier, is very evident, but there is also a belcanto side deriving from the young composers great admiration for the Italian tradition, particularly for the works of Bellini. Very notable in terms of Wagners artistic development is the first appearance, in the Dutchman, of those leitmotifs linked to persons or concepts, and the exaltation of the romantic themes of redemption through love which were to become a hallmark in the works that followed.

This is the only one of Wagners 13 operas in which he supplies metronome markings; these have traditionally been widely ignored, but Oleg Caetani, the conductor of this evening at the Teatro dell'Opera, adheres to them, and drives the orchestra and chorus exhilaratingly, in music that is in ever-shifting movement between lyricism and the wild tempestuousness of the sea.

The set by Ulderico Manani is simple but effective, the two walls of the hull of a boat, symbolizing the omnipresence of the sea, rising up at both sides of the stage. The chorus remains stationary at the front of the stage, commenting on the action taking place further back and reminiscent of the chorus in Greek tragedy. The costumes are of an indeterminate period, those of the sailors, Sentas friends and Mary being vaguely early 1950s; only Senta, in white, and the Dutchman, in ample dark robes, are picked out.

The professionalism of the protagonists is immediately evident. Franz Grundheber is an old hand as the Dutchman, and vividly brings to life the torments of his existence. Keith Olsen, the American tenor, sings the part of the superseded Erik with dignity and pathos, while the Icelandic bass, Bjarni Kristinsson, is excellent as the somewhat ingenuous Daland.

Gabriele Maria Ronge as Senta puts all she has into the role, both dramatically and vocally, portraying most movingly the obsessive romanticism of the heroine, although her powerful voice has a tendency to a certain beat on sustained notes. Jrg Schneider, the steersman, and Julia Oesch, Mary, were most promising.

John Fort.

First night 19 Nov 2004. Further performances 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 Nov.

General Info

Address Teatro Costanzi, Piazza B. Gigli 8, tel. 0648160255, 064817003.

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Der Fliegende Hollander by Wagner.

Teatro Costanzi, Piazza B. Gigli 8, tel. 0648160255, 064817003.