Eighteenth century folklore comes alive in Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of Richard Wagner’s haunting masterpiece, The Flying Dutchman (German with English surtitles).
Making his debut in the title role, John Fanning delivers a commanding performance as the mysterious Dutchman who carries a curse and is doomed to sail the seven seas until he can find redemption through the love of a faithful woman.
Fanning’s broad stature and chilly expression are well suited to the ghostly character, who is only permitted to go ashore in search of a wife every seven years.
His ship comes alongside that of a Norwegian sailor, Daland (played by bass baritone Gary Relyea), and his crew while his ship is taking refuge from a storm. He tempts the sailor with a bounty for a night’s stay at his home just a few miles away. Oh, and his daughter’s hand in marriage. The greedy sailor accepts the trade and the south wind blows to push them home.
The Victoria Symphony, directed by conductor Timothy Vernon, is another character in the cast of more than 50. The recurring themes are masterfully performed, culminating with gale force horns and crashing timpanis.
The set, too minimal and confusing at times, comes alive in the second act as the rope factory is draped in a mechanical steampunk style. Crystal clear soprano Joni Henson makes her POV debut as Senta, Daland’s daughter, who is enthralled with the sad, pale Dutchman.
This wouldn’t be a musical drama without a love triangle; enter Erik (Tenor Robert Kunzli in his POV debut), Senta’s suitor. When the Dutchman overhears Erik begging Senta to concede she professed her love to him, he decides to admit to the curse and to defeat and set sail for another seven years.
In sorrow, Senta throws herself into the ocean, proving her devotion and breaking the curse, and the two rise to redemption.
At just under three hours, the three-act opera is well performed, but the story line grows tiresome and is drawn out with repetition. M
The Flying Dutchman is playing at the Royal Theatre
Oct. 12, 14, 2011, at 8 pm
Matinée October 16 at 2:30 pm
tickets at rmts.bc.ca