A Near Perfect Flying Dutchman

SwitzerlandSwitzerland Wagner, Der fliegende Holländer: Soloists, Chorus of the Zurich Opera, Philharmonia Zurich / Markus Poschner (conductor), Zurich Opera, Zurich. 18.3.2018. (JR)


Producer – Andreas Homoki
Scenic director – Jan Essinger
Set – Wolfgang Gussmann
Costumes – Wolfgang Gussmann, Susana Mendoza
Set Assistant – Thomas Bruner
Costume assistant – Carl-Christian Andresen
Lighting – Franck Evin
Video – Tieni Burkhalter
Dramaturgy – Werner Hintze


Senta – Camilla Nylund
Mary – Lilieana Nikiteanu
Dutchman – Bryn Terfel
Daland – Steven Humes
Erik – Marco Jentzsch
Steersman – Omer Kobiljak
Servant – Nelson Egede

This witty and novel Andreas Homoki production of The Flying Dutchman was first premièred in 2012, with Bryn Terfel in the title role, and Anja Kampe as Senta. For details of the (by and large) excellent production, I refer you to my review (click here). The first revival brought in Michael Volle as the Dutchman and Meagan Miller as Senta (click here). For this revival back comes the incomparable Bryn Terfel with Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund. Apart from Brünnhilde, Nylund sings all the major soprano Wagner roles (including Sieglinde at Bayreuth), so Brünnhilde must surely be on the cards one day soon.

This was, without doubt, the best Dutchman/Senta combination of actors and voices we have seen here in this production, as nigh perfect as one can hope for. Terfel was strong in voice (is he ever not?), his acting exemplary. Nylund was both spine-tingling with her top notes, the voice never forced, with spot-on intonation throughout. I preferred her to both Kampe and Miller, Kampe in particular being too neurotic. Nylund made the perfect match for Terfel in every way, making for a gripping performance, which elicited more cheering from the audience than I have heard in Zurich’s auditorium for some while.

Liliana Nikiteanu returned to the part of Mary, an amusing portrayal of an otherwise stern character. Marco Jentzsch returned to the part of Erik – if it works, why change it?  His singing was splendid. The newcomer (to Zurich opera house) was American Steven Humes as Daland, almost as strong in voice as Terfel and instantly preferable to the veteran Matti Salminen from the earlier revival series. Humes’ firm bass was always a delight to listen to, and he acted well.

As Steersman, Omer Kobiljak’s tenor was very strong and melodic, just a pity he couldn’t quite reach the top note, nor sustain it, on opening night.

In the pit, Markus Poschner showed his firm intent with the opening bars of the overture, extracting very nimble playing, especially from the strings of the Philharmonia Zurich. The players sounded as though they were enjoying themselves.

I like the production a great deal, even if it still remains weak when the ghostly seamen of the Dutchman’s ship are supposed to appear; in Homoki’s colonial Africa production, they are represented by one lone Zulu warrior. There used to be more of them, but Homoki has significantly reduced their number.

The complex set of a rotating central column with trap doors and video projections is prone to glitches; on opening night, the map of Africa hung crookedly, causing the producer to rush from his box.

This was a wonderful performance of a great opera; I can hardly think of how it could be improved. The real hero of the evening (afternoon actually, it was a full-house matinée) was, of course, Wagner.

John Rhodes

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