Der fliegende Holländer

Last night we saw Wagner’s opera, The Flying Dutchman. The story itself is about a ship captain who is condemned to the seas until judgment day. He’s only allowed off the ship once every 7 years to search for a wife who will be faithful to him even on his deathbed, and so the opera begins at one of these 7-year points.

It was originally written to air with no intermission. It’s not his lengthiest of operas, but with the current state of ADHD-audiences, it’s no wonder why it’s usually performed in III acts with an intermission between the first and second.

Wagner worked on the story in 1840, composed the libretto & orchestration in 1841, and the premiere took off in 1843 with Wagner himself conducting in Dresden. I’d love to find out some information on how it was received at that first performance…

*Notably, the Dutchman is Wagner’s earliest opera to be performed at Bayreuth.

So – last night’s performance was done well. I had not seen the production before, and so I don’t have one to compare it to. I wasn’t impressed with the modern screen in front of the on-stage cast that colored the stage with night-scenes in outrageous pinks and purples. It was a little much, and it distracted the audience (myself and those I was with at least) from what was going on. The set behind it was lovely, and it would have been nice to see it instead of squinting to gaze through the screen.

The pit orchestra was fabulous of course – and not at all because I knew most of the players. The tubist (okay so he’s my private instructor) had a full Wagner sound, and seemed to understand the nuances of everything that was happening on stage and putting every note into context. Perhaps I’m taking previous knowledge from seeing him practice sometimes and knowing how his mind works – that the music does become a story for him, and he tries to make it come alive. It’s what makes him different to me. The notes don’t matter unless they mean something. The conductor was wonderful as well, and I had never seen him before so I need to do a bit of asking around to find out more about him.

All of the voices were well-cast, although the Dutchman himself didn’t have as much of a vocal presence as Senta (the woman he wants), Erik (her boyfriend), her father, or the helmsman.

I love the Petrucci library. You can see the entire Dutchman vocal score here if you’d like.

Anyway, it was a lovely experience and a lovely production. It was also Kd’s first opera, so I’m glad it was a Wagner.

On another note, our conversation in the car this morning went something like this:

Kd: “I don’t like this piece. It’s too childish.”
Dani: “It’s called “Children’s March”.”
Kd: “Okay but I don’t like it.”
Dani: “Honey, my goal in life is to force-feed you Percy Grainger until you love it. That’s how I learned”.


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