(sung in English)
Daland – Clive Bayley
Senta – Orla Boylan
Erik – Stuart Skelton
Mary – Susanna Tudor-Thomas
Steersman – Robert Murray
The Dutchman – James Creswell
Jonathan Kent (director)
Paul Brown (designs)
Mark Henderson (lighting)
Denni Sayers (choreography)
Nina Dunn (video)
Orchestra of the English National Opera
Chorus of the English National Opera (chorus master: Francine Merry)
Edward Gardner (conductor)
|Aoife Checkland (young Senta)|
Images: Robert Workman
ENO’s peculiar decision not to stage any Wagner during its 2012-13 season, that is the season in which the greater part of Wagner’s bicentenary falls, is at least mitigated by a new production of The Flying Dutchman during this preceding season. There is much to enjoy musically, though there are a few problems too, but Jonathan Kent’s production fails to cohere. Whilst resemblances to Tim Albery’s dreary production across town for the Royal Opera are doubtless coincidental – though might it not reasonably be part of a stage director’s job to inform himself of what others in his position have done? – the factory setting of the second act, the increasingly odd, yet unrevealingly odd, costumes, and apparent unwillingness or inability to listen to Wagner’s score present an unfortunate kinship.
|James Creswell (The Dutchman), Orla Boylan (Senta)|
|Senta surrounded by the crowd|
Senta is then rescued by the re-appearance of the Dutchman’s crew – unfortunately rendered in amplified, recorded form: a terrible mistake – but how and why, if, and I repeat if, they do not really exist? Has she merely imagined everything? In that case, it is difficult to take seriously any claims to societal critique, at least without further guidance or refinement. As for why a spotlight suddenly swung around the theatre and focused upon a seemingly random part of the Coliseum ceiling, I simply have not the faintest idea. My abiding impression of Kent’s production, then, was of an undergraduate with a few too many ideas, who would need to be taken aside, advised to deepen his acquaintance with the work over a few years, before returning to it and deciding more clearly how to pursue one or two of those ideas. The contrast with ENO’s most recent other Wagner, Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s ‘heap of broken images’ Parsifal, is stark.
|Daland (Clive Bayley)|
James Creswell made for the most part a commanding Dutchman; his care with the words, here sung in David Pountney’s translation, was noteworthy. Unfortunately, Orla Boylan seemed quite miscast as Senta. It is, I know, a very difficult role, but her often squally tone often turned downright hectoring; at times, it was almost impossible not to wince. Intonation deteriorated as the work progressed too. Thank goodness, then, for a typically detailed character portrayal from Clive Bayley, despite the silly dance he was forced to perform at the end of the second act, and for the undoubted star of proceedings, Stuart Skelton as Erik. His Romantic ardour led one to sympathise as often one does not, yet he ensured that one remained aware of the character’s limitations, of his modest existence, so as to avoid the danger of thinking Senta should have thrown in her lot with him after all. Skelton’s is a fine voice, of course, but he can act too – and certainly did. Though the voices could hardly be more different, I was reminded of a production I saw in Vienna, in which Klaus Florian Vogt – the first time I heard him – quite stole the show. Despite that misguided decision concerning the Dutchman’s crew, the choral singing was, a few rough edges aside, of very high quality: weighty and yet surprisingly incisive. Would that I could say the same concerning the production. For far more interesting stagings, turn on DVD either to Kupfer from Bayreuth or to Martin Kušej’s recent production for the Netherlands Opera.