The Flying Dutchman

Review by Willard Manus

Richard Wagner's obsessively mythic opera, THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, was revived recently by Los Angeles Opera in a production that originated with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. L.A. Opera last mounted THE FLYING DUTCHMAN in 1995, with director Julie Taymor putting her own spin on the fable, one which leaned heavily on the legend of The Wandering Jew.

This time around German director Nikolaus Lehnhoff set the opera in a stark, ultra-modernistic setting which the audience saw through a gauzy seascape of a scrim. The mixture of Metropolis-like expressionism (further enhanced by Andrea Futterer's space- cadet costumes), dark, brooding lighting, and nautical touches (the opera is set in a Norwegian fjord) was a weird one indeed, but thanks to the power and beauty of Wagner's music--and to some lusty, impassioned singing--THE FLYING DUTCHMAN managed to cast a spell over me.

The love triangle at the heart of Wagner's 1843 story was brought to visceral life by Tomas Tomasson (as the doomed, ever-roaming Dutchman), Elisbete Matos as Senta, the young woman who risks her life in an attempt to save him from his fate, and John
Pickle as Senta's bewildered and resentful suitor, Erik the hunter.

The other impressive singers were James Creswell (as Daland), Matthew Plenj (as The Steersman) and Ronnita Nicole Miller (as Mary). The L.A. Opera Chorus, under the direction of Grant Gershon, excelled itself while portraying not just the traumatized locals
but the sailors aboard The Dutchman's ghost ship. James Conlon led the hard-working, amply-expressive L.A. Opera Orchestra.