The story has some familiar facets: a man cursed for sins of the past, doomed to remain in the purgatory of earthly surroundings until he redeems himself. Such is the undercurrent cadence of Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”. The Dutchman (played by baritone extraordinaire Todd Thomas), is a man of lore and legend. A doomed boat captain; ill-fated to spend forever bound to his curse until he finds a faithful wife. However, he is only allowed one day, every seven years, to make this happen.
I was very impressed with the ambiance, the great attention given to every superficial detail and the vintage scenery of the locale. More stunning, however, are the marvelous singers in this performance –as Wagner’s masterpiece assuredly demands.
Impossible and heart-wrenching? Indeed, but his fortunes change when another sea captain, Daland (played by the impressive baritone Justin Hopkins), is forced to beach his vessel not far from his home. The two men barter the Dutchman’s treasures for marriage to Daland’s daughter, Senta (played by the lovely soprano Alexandria LoBianco). However, Senta is already in a relationship with a hunter named Erik (played by the powerful tenor Dane Suarez). Erik laments great displeasure that Senta would even contemplate this arrangement. His powerful emotions and voice grip the mind of all who’ve been heartbroken as the result of the loss to another suitor.
This diligent cast of rigorous singers thrust “The Flying Dutchman” over the crescent of high-drama tension, continuously tightening its grasp on theatrics until the final note is sung. Much credit to conductor and pianist James Harp and assistant conductor Ryan Tani for the seamless composition, which ebbed and flowed like the seas –calm when the action sloped and wallowed like the mangling of outflowing emotions in the fret and torment of the songs of sentiment.
The enveloping setting of this intimate and coarsely romantic opera at the Baltimore Concert Opera in Mt. Vernon is a classic, elegant and very appropriate venue for this production. I was very impressed with the ambiance, the great attention given to every superficial detail and the vintage scenery of the locale. More stunning, however, are the marvelous singers in this performance –as Wagner’s masterpiece assuredly demands.
Thomas’s voice as the Dutchman was undoubtedly impassioned, as was LoBianco’s lustrous and dramatic exhibition of Senta. Hopkins’s deep baritone bursts of excitement at the prospect of acquiring riches as Daland was quite the delight. However, I was genuinely moved by Suarez’s portrayal of Erik, whose retelling of a premonition in a dream where Senta and the Dutchman disappear together at sea is deeply sobering. His aches and wails clench the walls of the heart and tear it to shreds. Bravo!
Other noteworthy mentions include tenor Orin Strunk as the Steersman, who set the show into motion with his distractions and sleepiness. Maryland’s own mezzo Kate Farrar as Mary fuses grace and vexation in a blond elixir sung in a periwinkle of mesmerizing notes. The Maryland State Boychoir as the Ghost Chorus deserves a nod, as well as the chorus for the Norwegian sailors, the Dutchman’s crew and the young women in Senta’s scene in Act 2. I thought the entire production was impressive and well-orchestrated.
One important caveat: this performance is done entirely in German with English text in a short screen above the stage. It was very helpful to catch those flashes of interpreted words, though much can be understood and felt through the raw, heartfelt frequencies emitted in human interactions. “The Flying Dutchman” performance is certainly one I won’t soon forget.
Running Time: 108 minutes with two 15-minute intermissions.
There were only two of these performances; on March 1st and 3rd, but to see all the shows playing at the Baltimore Concert Opera, click here.