Der Fliegende Holl‰nder, New York

We must be grateful for what we
can scrounge, and Der Fliegende Holl‰nder, Wagner’s Weber-like
romantic fable of the vampire-like sea captain doomed to sail till he meets the
woman faithful to death, in August Everding’s outsize production,
provides some sumptuous music-making. Holl‰nder, indeed, has grown
sufficiently unfamiliar to New Yorkers that many members of the audience were
outraged to find they were expected to sit still for two and a half hours
without intermission (though you’d have to go back nearly forty years to
find a Met production of the opera that did include intermissions), and several
of them walked out during the second scene-changing entr’acte.

HOLLANDER_Gould_as_Erik_850.gifStephen Gould as Erik

The vocal standard of the evening was impressively high. Finnish
bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo, who has been singing Wotan around Europe, gave us
a suave, passionate Dutchman with a smooth, even, grateful sound. A tall man
and a fine actor, he was got up to look pale, raven-haired, huge of eye and
lofty of brow, rather like Wagner’s friend, King Ludwig of Bavaria
— appropriately; the king drowned.

Uusitalo would have been the star of the evening had not Hans-Peter Kˆnig
been singing the bumptious Daland. Kˆnig has one of those godlike basses (think
Matti Salminen or Kurt Moll), clear and even from top to bottom, enormous but
graciously so, never oppressive, never bellowed, as gently nuanced as if he
were singing lieder. You will think: if there’s a God, he sounds like
this. It was the A-list performance of the night.

Stephen Gould, an American tenor who has been singing Siegfried in Vienna to
great acclaim, made his Met debut as Erik. An enormous figure on stage, Gould
has a voice as sturdy as his linebacker build and a clarion delivery, but has a
tendency to hurl it out brusquely when romantic gentility seems called for,
especially in this dreamy role. His bark was not harsh but it was unfinished
— which seems right for the half-savage Siegfried but not for Erik. When
he sang, one pricked up one’s ears — but when Mr. Kˆnig sang,
pricking up of ears wasn’t necessary — the voice came out into the
theater and seduced us. Russell Thomas provided an energetic Steersman, seeming
a bit small-scale in such company.

HOLLANDER_Uusitalo_and_Voig.gif Deborah Voigt as Senta and Juha Uusitalo as the Dutchman

Deborah Voigt sang her first staged Senta. She looked good and hurled
herself ardently about the room — at one point bringing the house to
giggles, unintentionally one supposes: As Erik described his dream of the
arrival of the Dutchman, she abruptly “assumed the position,” head
back, legs spread, in anticipation. Her voice, though, was not in happy estate,
stringy and unattractive for much of the night and occasionally flat. She
nailed the “treu” on her final “treue als dem Tod,” but
it was a bit late in the evening to rescue this heroic figure. Senta is a young
girl with an earth mother coiled audibly within her, bursting out into
thrilling cries. Senta — indeed Wagner — is not a good choice for
Voigt’s instrument these days.

HOLLANDER_Thomas_and_Konig_.gifHans-Peter Kˆnig as Daland and Russell Thomas as the Steersman

In the pit, Kazushi Ono, undeterred by occasional intrusive applause and the
departure of those unwilling to do without intermissions, kept the oceanic
rhythms of this nautical ghost story in driving motion. The only sounds one
regretted were not in his department at all — the squeak of the metal
gangway as it descended to the stage in Act I. It has indeed been years since
its last use (seven by the story, ten at the Met), and we had an undesired
squealing obbligato. This however had been oiled away by the final scene
— good catch, Met crew!

John Yohalem

image_description=Deborah Voigt as Senta [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
product_title=Richard Wagner: Der Fliegende Holl‰nder
product_by=Senta: Deborah Voigt; Dutchman: Juha Uusitalo; Daland: Hans-Peter Kˆnig; Erik: Stephen Gould; Steersman: Russell Thomas. Metropolitan Opera chorus and orchestra conducted by Kazushi Ono. Performance of April 23.
product_id=Above: Deborah Voigt as Senta

All photos by Cory Weaver courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera