by Richard Wagner.

Festival Theatre 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT 19 April 2013.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.

TICKETS: 0131 529 6000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 April.

Modern, and local, setting increases rather than diminishing the transcendent element in Wagner.
A reminder came in under 24-hours of how far Richard Wagner would develop as dramatist and composer, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Donald Runnicles giving the final act of their concert Tristan und Isolde at the Usher Hall.

But the early work of major artists has particular interest, often laying bare the essentials upon which later works will weave depth and complexity. Tristan and this, the first of Wagner’s regularly-revived operas, share the surge of human passion and the sea, and the love in which characters transcend daily existence.

Musically there’s the sense of a composer whose dramatic and symphonic nature is emerging from the traditions of German opera – there are passages, like the end of act two, which might have come direct from his predecessor Weber’s work.

The Dutchman and his lover-redeemer Senta have, like Tristan and Isolde, a dimension unshared by the diurnal world. It’s evident from the first meeting of Dutchman and ship’s captain Donald (Harry Fehr’s Scottish Opera production reinstates the Caledonian setting Wagner first intended).

While love and hope ignite the Dutchman, Donald’s enthused by the phantom captain’s wealth (a bit rich of Wagner, seeing he dreamed the opera up while escaping from his creditors).

Bringing the action up-to-date also brings it down to earth (or sea-level). The ship’s canteen’s visible, with its price-list, while act two’s spinning chorus becomes a sewing-bee in the local community centre, the women efficient as any SWRI branch in clearing their work and laying tea when the men return.

Senta’s statuesque phrases and the subsequent emotional rush of the musical line are finely caught by Rachel Nicholls. Mocked by the other women, she comes into her own when the damned sailor arrives, the surrounding world offsetting her passionate escstasy.

It’s less convincing to make Senta’s intended, here rechristened George, a minister rather than huntsman – though maybe north-east Scotland still has clerics who go out with a rifle. Anyway, there’s an aptness to his gun seeing off his rival, bringing welcome death as well as revenge as Senta, not throwing herself off the harbour–wall, instead stabs herself.

Donald: Scott Wilde.
Donald’s Helmsman: Nicky Spence.
The Dutchman: Peteris Eglitis.
Senta: Rachel Nicholls.
Mary: Sarah Pring.
George: Jeff Gwaitney.
Orchestra of Scottish Opera.
Chorus of The Flying Dutchman.

Director: Harry Fehr.
Conductor: Francesco Corti.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: James Farncombe.
Video: Ian William Galloway.
Movement: Kally Lloyd-Jones.

2013-04-21 20:04:55

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