A Somewhat Uneven Flying Dutchman Returns to Munich’s National Theatre

GermanyGermany Wagner, Der fliegende Holländer: Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Asher Fisch (conductor), National Theatre, Munich, 22.7.2016. (JMI)

Der fliegende Holländer © W. Hösl


Direction: Peter Konwitschny
Sets and Costumes: Johannes Leiacker
Lighting: Michael Bauer


Holländer: Johan Reuter
Senta: Catherine Naglestad
Daland: Matti Salminen
Erik: Wookyung Kim
Mary: Okka Von Der Damerau
Steuermann: Dean Power

This performance of The Flying Dutchman did not live up to the expectations one always has when attending the opera in Munich. The music was rather bland and the cast was good though not outstanding; the staging was acceptable until the confrontation in the final act.

Peter Konwitschny’s production had its premiere here in February 2006. I always find his work interesting, particularly his stage direction, although his conceptions are sometimes debatable.

This production was fairly traditional until the end of the opera, where Mr. Konwitschny decided, unnecessarily, to provoke the audience. The first act was quite conventional, with painted rocks and a hint of ships approaching from offstage; the Dutch crew appeared to have stepped out of a Van Dyck painting. Act II was brilliant and evolved in a gym with the “spinners” singing on bikes. The scene was colorful and the stage direction excellent. Act III takes place in a tavern in the port where there is a confrontation between the two crews. Mr. Konwitschny’s so-called originality occurs at the very end as the immolation of Senta takes place, not with her jumping into the sea but with exploding barrels. The stage and pit are plunged into darkness, and the opera ends with the last bars played on an almost inaudible recording. Something went wrong at this performance because the explosion could not be heard.

Asher Fisch, a frequent presence in Munich, was on the podium. I’ve never been particularly convinced by his performances, and the same thing occurred here. From the overture, his reading was rather routine, and although his conducting was effective, one expects more in a Wagner opera and even more so in Munich. The orchestra was good but not comparable to how they’ve sounded on previous occasions. There was a superb musical and stage performance from the chorus.

Leading the cast was Danish baritone Johan Reuter. He’s a good singer with a pleasant sound, but his voice is small, and this lack of volume hampered his performance.

American soprano Catherine Naglestad was a convincing Senta, in terms both of singing and acting. Her voice is attractive and well suited to the character, and she’s a good performer on stage, never uncontrolled, although some top notes were cut abruptly in the last act.

Veteran Matti Salminen once again provided a lesson in the interpretation of Daland, although I found him vocally weaker than last month in Berlin.

I dare say that the best in the cast was Korean tenor Wookyung Kim in the part of Erik. His performance was faultless, one of the best that can be heard today in the role, where normally theatres do not offer stars. Many interpreters have problems in the arioso of Act III, but this was not the case with Wookyung Kim, who was excellent.

In the secondary characters Okka Von Der Damerau was good as Frau Mary, the manager of the gym, and tenor Dean Power did nicely in the role of the Steuermann.

José M. Irurzun

Seen and Heard sends it support and sympathies to those affected by the rampage of the gunman on this day in Munich.

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