SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., February 14, 2018: Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman is the third installment in Opera San José’s already impressive 2017-2018 season. As we’ve already come to expect, the Opera San José ensemble continues to impress in this production.
Let’s be honest. For music fans having only a passing acquaintance with opera, Wagner operas like The Flying Dutchman are not exactly the easiest works to understand, produce or perform. They are very long. They can get a little weird and ethereal. Yet even so, the very talented Opera San José cast and crew have mounted a wonderful production of The Flying Dutchman, delivering a superb evening of opera for all.
“The Flying Dutchman is Wagner’s shortest and most accessible opera,” notes Director Brad Dalton in his notes on the production. “On one hand, the opera is a supernatural thriller but it also asks us to remember the transformative power of our empathy and compassion. Our production incorporates towering visual imagery to transport you to the icy arctic oceans of Norway. It is sure to thrill audiences.”
The music is stunning and captivating, pulling the audience in before the curtain even goes up. The opera opens with the opera’s famously stirring overture. This long prelude, performed prior to the opera’s opening curtain begins to tell the Dutchman story through powerful excerpts of themes and motives we will encounter in greater detail as the story unfolds.
The Flying Dutchman was composed in Wagner’s relative youth, before his narrative ideas had been fully formed. It’s certainly much closer in form, music and content than his later epic “Ring” cycle. As such, it is perhaps his fastest-paced and most romantically moving score, particularly for new opera goers who might have little patience with the huge operas that comprise the “Ring.”
Even better, much of the score will sound familiar to longtime movie fans. Some of its most stirring, out-of-copyright moments were gleefully pilfered by Hollywood and blended into movie soundtracks.
Today, it is still a pleasure to listen to this rich and complex score, whose melodies help tell the ancient legend of the immortal Dutchman, a ghostly, errant sailor condemned to travel the high seas for eternity. Opera San José’s Music Director and Principal Conductor Joseph Marcheso and Opera Director Brad Dalton have done superb work in bringing this epic high-seas quest to life on stage.
The Opera San José’s helpful notes lay out the plot that lies at the romantic heart of The Flying Dutchman:
“As the legend goes, a ship’s captain is cursed to live until he can find someone who will love him until death. He meets Senta, the daughter of Daland, who has been obsessed with his legend from childhood. However, in the legend, she must die to free him from eternal life on earth, which has become a living hell.”
In proper Wagner fashion, this is a good vs. evil story with Satan front and center again. But at the very core, this is a longing for true love story. The key performances of the evening were delivered by by the principals. Baritone Noel Bouley makes his Opera San José debut in this production, appearing in the title role of the Dutchman, while soprano Kerriann Otaño also makes her company debut as his ever-longing and empathetic savior, Senta.
Norwegian-American bass Gustav Andreassen and tenor Derek Taylor are making their company debuts as well. Andreassen portrays Daland, Senta’s money hungry father, while Taylor stars in the ungrateful role of Erik, Senta’s love-striken and heartbroken would-be husband.
All four primary singers owned their respective roles and delivered elegant, targeted performances. However, the clear crowd favorites, by virtue of their pure power, grace and ownership of their respective roles were Otaño’s Senta and Bouley’s Dutchman.
In particular, the audience held its collective breath during Otaño’s lengthy solo excursions, completely mesmorized by the power and expressiveness of her voice. She displayed a breathtaking range throughout, believably transforming into Senta before the audience’s very eyes.
Opera San José’s fine production of The Flying Dutchman includes set designs by Steven Kemp, costumes designed by Johann Stegmeir, lighting design by David Lee Cuthbert, wig and makeup designs by Christina Martin, and projections designed by Ian Wallace.
Tickets and information: Opera San José’s production of Richard Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman is sung in German with English supertitles. Runtime is approximately three hours. Opera San José presents six performances of this opera, having opened in San José’s California Theatre on February 10, 2018. Its closing performance will be presented on February 25, 2018. The California Theatre is located at 345 S. First Street in downtown San José. Visit their website to purchase tickets.
Coming up: Opera San José’s 2017-2018 season wraps up with one of the most treasured operas of all time, Verdi’s La traviata. See their website for details.