Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Flying Dutchman at SF Opera

This past Tuesday I saw the opening performance of The Flying Dutchman at SF Opera. The director Petrika Ionesco was fired by David Gockley the previous week & the production hastily re-staged. The rumored laser beams, spaceships & alien zombies were nowhere to be seen. The action takes place on a nearly bare stage. Projections, mostly of the sea & the sky, provide the scenic effects. The staging straightforwardly told the basic story, though I was confused about what the female chorus was supposed to be doing during the act 2 spinning scene. Costumes looked roughly 19th century, though the Dutchman enters in a sort of muscle shirt. The opera ended tamely, with a field of stars projected onto an empty stage.

The singing was strong. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley had a nice tension to his voice & was an appropriately tortured Dutchman. His act 1 monologue was taut & received applause. The Dutchman's entrance is theatrical, with the entire stage floor hinging open to reveal a spooky subterranean world. Soprano Lise Lindstrom has a big, solid sound, & she sang with control. Her voice got larger & more focused in the final act. Her Senta, wearing an elegant dress, was a mature woman rather than a naive girl. Tenor Ian Storey as Erik was an effortful singer. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson's singing was characterful, & he was a vaguely comic Daland. It was nice to hear the bright ringing sound of tenor A.J. Glueckert as the Steersman. The male chorus sang robustly.

SF Opera photo IMG_20131022_195822_zpsd3ca2fc7.jpgConductor Patrick Summers did not push the music, & the duet of Senta & the Dutchman in act 2 unfolded at a slightly indulgent pace. The orchestra sounded clipped at times. I enjoyed the smooth & sweet oboe solos. The off-stage voices of the Dutchman & the Dutchman's sailors seemed to emanate from the walls of the auditorium. I watched the show in upstairs standing room, where there was plenty of room at the railing. This production takes an intermission after act 1.

§ The Flying Dutchman
Richard Wagner

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Director, Set Designer: Petrika Ionesco

The Dutchman: Greer Grimsley
Senta: Lise Lindstrom
Erik: Ian Storey
Daland: Kristinn Sigmundsson
Steersman: A.J. Glueckert
Mary: Erin Johnson

Tue 10/22/13 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House


David Lasson said...

Your review notes two departures from established Wagnerian protocol: the intermission in Dutchman, and mid-opera applause. Are we entering a new era of what is considered acceptable Wagnerian decorum?

Axel Feldheim said...

I don't know. I'm so used to the one act version that I found the break disconcerting, but the Opera Tattler recounted attending a production that had 2 intermissions! As for the audience's unseemly mid-act applause, I suppose that since Dutchman is the Wagner opera that is most like a "normal" opera, I can give the audience a pass.