Monday, February 4, 2019

Melbourne Opera's The Flying Dutchman takes to the stage with exportable class: Herald Sun Review

Published in print in edited form in Melbourne's Herald Sun 5th February, 2019.

With wind in their sails and augmented resources, Melbourne Opera’s new production of The Flying Dutchman opened in majestic form on Sunday evening with exportable class. Following successes with Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and Tristan and Isolde, the company has now turned to the earliest of Wagner’s 10 mature works that make up the Bayreuth canon. 

Steven Gallop as Daland with Melbourne Opera Chorus
In it, the risks, adventures and livelihood derived from the sea are intensely painted across a music drama based on a legendary ghost ship. If sighted, it is a portent of doom. But Wagner utilised the myth to explore love and redemption, themes that recur throughout much of his work. 

Wagnerian specialist Anthony Negus presided in the pit, conducting the mercurial and multi-coloured three-act score into one seamless nautical beauty - just how Wagner had intended.

Fully fledged in Wagner’s work, Suzanne Chaundy’s impressively variegated direction gives clarity and sensitivity in a staging realised with striking stylised economy and folkloric feel. Chaundy deftly balances the sexes in a setting where men sail off to work and women are left behind. 

You’d have to possess some degree of desperation and craftiness as the roaming ghostly Dutchman and it’s written all over Englishman Darren Jeffery’s performance with thunderous heft in voice and stature. Steven Gallop’s burnished bass comes with complimentary authoritative strength as the greedy-eyed Daland, captain of his own ship. 

Lee Abrahmsen as Senta and Darren Jeffery as The Dutchman
His loving daughter Senta knows the commodity she is but acts on her own terms. Drawn in to see the myth through Senta’s emotions, the complex textures, determination, grace and thrilling voice to which soprano Lee Abrahmsen give her are terrific. 

Erik, believing he has Senta in reach of marriage gets luxury casting with passionate tenor Rosario La Spina. Roxane Hislop and Michael Lapina stud the list superbly as Mary and Daland's steersman.

A shipload of muscular-voiced roughened sailors and a brilliantly choreographed Spinning Chorus of delicately lace-voiced women complete the coastal setting. And when the sailors return home in Act 3’s cacophonous celebration and subsequent cloud of gloom, the impression you get is that no stage is unconquerable for Melbourne Opera. Deserved rewards from the government’s chest, however, would assist.

The Flying Dutchman 
Melbourne Opera
Regent Theatre 
Until 7th February, 2018

4.5 stars

Production Photos: Robin Halls

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