Der Fliegende Holländer

  • Opera
  • By Richard Wagner
  • Director: Jan Philipp Gloger
  • Conductor: Axel Kober
  • Cast includes: Christa Mayer, Ricarda Merbeth, Peter Rose, Andreas Schager
  • Bayreuther Festspiele 2016, Bayreuth
  • Until 26 August 2016
  • Review by Tony Cooper
  • 20 August 2016
Der Fliegende Holländer
5.0Reviewer's Rating

Wagner’s first mature opera written in 1841, Der fliegende Holländer is directed with great flair and imagination by the German theatre director, Jan Philipp Gloger.

Quite daring in his approach, Gloger boldly shifted the scenario from a ‘nautical’ setting to a ‘business’ one, therefore the ‘sea’ became a worldwide web of international money markets and the Dutchman – a Master of the Universe, to borrow a Tom Wolfe phrase – is happy as Larry making money off the backs of others but, at the same time, cursed in sailing the High Seas eternally. He can only be redeemed by a woman’s true love.

The arrival of the Dutchman projected a haunting image. He emerged as if coming from the bowels of an ocean-liner but, in fact, was seen making his way through a city’s business and financial district dressed as a smart booted-and-suited businessman pulling a black-wheelie suitcase stashed full of bank notes steering an uneven course through an ‘ocean’ of greed, corruption and opportunism.

Here one finds Daland, no longer a sea captain but an ambitious small-time factory-owner, producing ‘ready-to-use’ table-top desk-fans. English bass, Peter Rose, delivered a rich reading of the part while Benjamin Bruns as the Steersman (now a fussy-minded management accountant!) proved a good running-mate delivering a masterful account of the sailor’s love song.

Never one to miss a trick, Daland – whose business interests were a spit in the ocean compared to the global dealings of the Dutchman – is quick off the mark in tantalising and baiting the stranger to the attractiveness of his daughter Senta.

During the Monologue the Dutchman cuts into his arm but he doesn’t bleed illustrating his immortality while his body scars hint, perhaps, at attempted suicide. Gloger saw fit to record his scars ‘black’ while Senta – sexually-repressed and unsettled – builds and admires an effigy of the Dutchman (daubed with ‘black’ blood) hoping for release.

The role of the Dutchman was sung by Thomas J Mayer and Senta by Ricarda Merbeth. It’s a role she’s embedded into and she employs an extraordinary range of vocal and dramatic colour heard to good effect in a moving account of the Ballad.

Daland’s factory was impressive with its robotic-like workforce – replacing the team of traditional spinners – attired in light-blue trouser uniforms with matching caps tastefully designed by Karin Jud. It added a new dimension to their big number, The Spinning Chorus, as they worked systematically under the careful eye of Mary (Senta’s nurse – now the factory-floor supervisor) the role sung with esteemed authority by Christa Mayer while Austrian tenor, Andreas Schager, delivered a strong performance as Erik.

Martin Eidenberger conjured up excellent video sequences and Christof Hetzer created a complicated set heavily laced with strips of bright-white neon lighting showing a digitalised-number board continually on the go echoing, perhaps, a traders’ floor of a stock exchange or a time-clock counting the days, hours and seconds left to the Dutchman before his seven-year exile of solitude comes to an end.

When the end comes for the chosen couple – romantically entwined in an unromantic setting on a pile of cardboard boxes in the style of a table decoration – true Wagnerian redemption manifests itself into a memento of them in an original limited edition, fan-based, china-coated statuette. Such was their fame! Another good business and money-making initiative by Daland!


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