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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Opera Review: Der Fliegende Höllander at the Met

Metropolitan Opera audiences finally got their much-needed dose of Wagner on Friday night with the revival of August Everding's iced-over staging of Der Fliegende Höllander. Deborah Voigt sang the role of Senta in a performance that was clearly a warm-up for next season, when the diva will tackle the role of Brunnhilde in Die Walküre for the first time.

Ms. Voigt made some unconventional choices as Senta, the obsessed daughter of a sea captain whose love for the Dutchman ends in spectacular, Tosca-like suicide. She sang softly at the start of the Act II ballad, substituting dreamy introspection for full-bore hysteria. However, when it came time for the love duet, she opened up her full vocal register, letting the notes ring out. However, she nearly drowned out the Dutchman, played by Finnish baritone Juhi Uusitalo. The Act III trio featured some spectacular high notes, and the soaring finish gives one hope for her forthcoming performance as Wagner's most famous Valkyrie.

Mr. Uusitalo is a tall, handsome singer with a strong stage presence. However, Friday night's performance was somewhat anemic. Although this singer (who was an excellent Jokaanan in the 2008 revival of Salome) has a powerful low range, but runs out of vocal heft when he tries for the higher notes in this score. Wagner wrote the role of the Dutchman in a slightly higher range than the baritone parts in his later operas. That proved to be the singer's undoing. Finally, he lacked that note of creepiness that makes a great Dutchman. If the singer can scare the hell out of the audience during "Die frist ist um", it makes Daland's decision to marry off his daughter all the more questionable.

Fine performances were given from the rest of the cast. Hans-Peter König is a cheerful, sleazy Daland, the father who seems all too willing to let his daughter marry a sailor. Mr König displayed an impressive bass range and good acting ability. Even more impressive was the young tenor Stephen Gould, making his Met debut as Erik. His dream narration in the second act showed a noble voice,  but he started to lose power in the third act.

The Met chorus was also impressive, portraying cheerful Norwegian sailors, their wives, and of course, a chorus of shambling, green-lit zombie sailors that provided the evening's most entertaining moments. Kazushio Ono conducted, and although he was competent enough, his reading of Wagner's first important score failed to terrify or inspire.

Deborah Voigt as Senta in Der Fliegende Höllander.
Photo Credit: Corey Weaver © 2010 The Metropolitan Opera

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