THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
by Richard Wagner translated by David Pountney.
London Coliseum St. Martin’s Lane WC2N 4ES In rep to 23 May 2012.
7.30pm 12, 16, 18, 23 7.30pm.
BSL Signed 16 May.
Runs 2hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 0871 911 0200.
Review: Carole Woddis 1 May.
Compromised by the times.
Sea-faring tales hold a special place in the collective imagination whether it’s Conrad’s The Rover, Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea or Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. Wagner’s 1841 tale is regarded as a pivotal work – the beginning of the sung-through opera. Jonathan Kent’s production for English National Opera gives plenty to chew on whilst failing to unleash its darker mythic qualities.
Kent, like many modern opera directors, opts for a radically modern approach that, with his regular theatre design collaborator, Paul Brown, produces a stunning, digitally created opening storm of turbulent seas and an enlarged slanting window pane that passes for both a ship’s portal and a bedroom skylight.
But his modernising of this epitome of 19th German romanticism also produces a climax of gang rapes and bare-chested drunken Norwegian villagers and clichéd modern vulgarity.
Since Wagner sought to contrast the world of the condemned Dutchman – closely associated with the idea of the Wandering Jew and given Wagner’s views, also, strangely, someone with whom the composer identified as the heroic outsider/artist beyond ordinary convention – maybe Kent was seeking to underline Wagner’s condemnation of ordinary, materialistic society.
Instead the ultimate scene becomes another episode of modern revisionism reducing multi-layered dimensions to the mundane and prosaic.
Up until that moment, Kent – whose bewitching Sweeney Todd is in the West End – has served the musical narrative pretty well. I would like to have seen a bit more bewitching attempted here.
James Creswell’s Dutchman carries nothing especially talismanic about him. Orla Boylan’s Senta, the woman who in Wagner’s idealistic new world, is prepared to sacrifice everything for her man, even unto death, starts tentatively but rises to bravura Wagnerian heights in her torment.
It is left to Stuart Skelton as Erik, Senta’s faithful but unlucky childhood sweetheart, to carry off the singing laurels alongside an orchestral performance galvanised by ENO’s own Music Director, Edward Gardner.
With a tone as limpid as his persona is stout, Erik’s agonised prediction of the outcome of Senta’s obsession with the Dutchman turns Wagner’s frightening, ultimately irritating opera into a moment of purest, tragic innocence.
Daland: Clive Bayley.
Senta: Orla Boylan.
Erik: Stuart Skelton.
Mary: Susanna Tudor-Thomas.
The Steersman: Robert Murray.
The Dutchman: James Creswell.
Actors: Lucy Brenchley, Darren Cockrill, Tom Crook, Ruth Eaton, Neil John Gibson, Helen Kelly, Adam Langstaff, Stephen McLeod
Children: Aoife Checkland/Evie Grattan. With thanks to the schools, boroughs and parents for their kind support.
Orchestra and Chorus of English National Opera.
Director: Jonathan Kent.
Designer: Paul Brown.
Lighting: Mark Henderson.
Conductor: Edward Gardner
Assistant conductor: Roy Laughlin
Video: Nina Dunn for Knifedge.
Choreographer: Denni Sayers.
First performance of The Flying Dutchman was at the Königliches Sächsisches Hofteater Dresden on 2 January 1843.
The first UK performance (sung in Italian) was given on 23 July 1870 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane London.
First performance of this production was 28 April 2012 by ENO at the London Coliseum.