Der fliegende Holländer – Romantic opera in three acts to a libretto by the composer after Heinrich Heine’s Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski [sung in German with English surtitles]
Stauermann – Richard Roberts
Daland – Karl Huml
Höllander – James Hancock
Mary – Anne-Marie Owens
Senta – Gweneth-Ann Jeffers
Erik – Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Reviewed by: Kevin Rogers
Reviewed: 27 November, 2008
Venue: Barbican Hall, London
London Lyric Opera here presented Wagner’s “Der fliegende Höllander” in what was claimed to be a version that had corrected many errors in previously published scores. Apparently, the significance of this performance was that there were no cuts and with strict adherence to the composer’s original keys. However, if this were to be a truly ‘authentic’ performance, then it should have been performed without intervals; Wagner himself never heard it performed this way but it was his wish that it should be.
But without breaks there is no way that the struggling James Hancock would have made it through the evening, the part lying far below Hancock’s range; this was a strain from beginning to end. Lionel Friend did not help the evening by producing a lethargic account of the Overture, which was in the manner of Reginald Goodall if without his weight and élan. Friend could not rouse the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra overly. Matters for the orchestra – playing very well, overall – vastly improved for Act Two and the opera gathered its necessary drive.
Gweneth-Ann Jeffers excelled as Senta, a stunning role-debut. She inhabited the part; her longing for the love of the mysterious Dutchman captured beautifully. Her singing, too, set her apart from the rest, her malleable and vibrant soprano puncturing turbulent moments with ease. Tenderness, too, was produced with seeming ease. Her father Daland was sung by a rather detached Karl Huml, whose Italianate mannerisms were alien for this music. His dialogues with the Dutchman did manage to captivate: a rare moment. As Senta’s spurned love-interest Erik, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts provided secure moments, his perhaps-manic and obsessive character bubbling tantalisingly under a veneer of pretence.
The Philharmonia Chorus was superb throughout and the amplified ghosts were truly cacophonous. “Der fliegende Holländer” is the least convincing of Wagner’s music-dramas and needs a strong cast and firm direction to convince. Sadly this was missing, and the two intervals did not help.