The Royal Opera – Tim Albery’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) with Bryn Terfel, Adrianne Pieczonka & Peter Rose; conducted by Andris Nelsons

Der fliegende Holländer – Romantic Opera in one Act to a libretto by the composer after Heinrich Heine’s Aus den Memoiren des Herren von Schnabelewopski [sung in German with English surtitles]

Daland – Peter Rose
Steersman – Ed Lyon
The Dutchman – Bryn Terfel
Senta – Adrianne Pieczonka
Mary – Catherine Wyn-Rogers
Erik – Michael König

Royal Opera Chorus

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Andris Nelsons

Tim Albery – Director
Daniel Dooner – Revival Director
Michael Levine – Set Designs
Constance Hoffmann – Costume Design
David Finn – Lighting
Philippe Giraudeau – Movement

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: 5 February, 2015
Venue: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Bryn Terfel as The Dutchman and Peter Rose as Daland in Der fliegende HolländerPhotograph: © ROH 2015 Clive BardaThis was an interesting first-night for Wagner’s Flying Dutchman. From a musical perspective the performance was determined to present and place the work firmly in the German Romantic tradition of Weber and Marschner, composers who both wrote operas (respectively Der Freischütz and Der Vampyr) involving the supernatural. If it did not quite come off entirely it was because such an approach needs a visual complement a little more fantastical than Tim Albery’s rather earthbound 2009 production offers.

However, there were moments where even the most-seasoned Wagnerian would be compelled to think some facets of the work afresh, and also passages where Andris Nelsons, the ROH Orchestra and in particular the Gentlemen of the Chorus unleashed a heady mix of the elemental. This was particularly the case when the sailors taunt the invisible crew of the ship and are then surprised by its eerie emergence from the shadows. Elsewhere the musical reading was notable for its restraint and for allowing the singers the opportunity to really shape their phrases and use dynamics and text to dramatic point.

Bryn Terfel as The Dutchman in Tim Albery’s production of Der fliegende HolländerPhotograph: © ROH Clive Barda 2009Bryn Terfel was making a welcome return in the title role and his singing was both subtle and supple. The world-weariness of the character was painted well vocally, and the moments of stillness and silence were telling and enhanced the portrayal enormously. The interpretation is a bleak one – and valid. In the tricky and taxing role of Senta Adrianne Pieczonka’s silvery soprano has developed more warmth at its core, and it now carries more emotional depth. How wonderful to hear the ‘Ballad’ without snatched high notes – and instead to hear the phrases so sensitively shaped and coloured. As an actress she is also affecting with her very expressive eyes. Some may prefer Senta to be more haunted, visionary or even fanatical but this is a refreshingly restrained interpretation.

Peter Rose was an excellent Daland, making much of the text and infusing a little gentle humour. Michael König was a solid Erik. The voice is not particularly big but his phrasing was notable. In the smaller roles we had Ed Lyon as a characterful Steersman, fresh of voice and very much at the centre of the action, and Catherine Wyn-Rogers was luxury casting for Mary.

When appropriate Nelsons allowed his forces to indulge their full-throttle playing, but the more gentle and emotional writing was played with much sweetness, making Wagner’s scoring sound more nuanced than normal. Strings and woodwinds in particular made their mark. Tempos were on the measured side, and just occasionally there was a sense of the singers wanting to move-on a little.

Michael Levine’s evocative sets still impress and looked splendid under David Finn’s subtle lighting. For the most part Daniel Dooner’s revival direction kept the action clear – although Albery’s rather unimaginative and almost perfunctory realisation of the ending does rather take the wind out the show’s sails.

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