Opera North’s travelling triumph, The Flying Dutchman, ended its five-venue UK tour with a stunning and memorable performance in Nottingham on Saturday, writes Tony Spittles.
This semi-staged production had already wooed Wagner fans on home ground in Leeds (plus Gateshead, Birmingham and Liverpool) and showed it hadn’t run out of steam or sail when it played to an appreciative audience at the Royal Concert Hall.
More than 170 years after its premiere, Wagner’s tale of a Dutchman cursed and doomed to sail the seas for eternity aboard a phantom ship is a powerful mix of music, words and drama that rarely disappoints.
Undeterred by the weather forecast whipped up by Wagner, Opera North’s acclaimed musical director Richard Farnes kept a steady hand on the tiller as storm and tempest raged as the Dutchman attempted to make land (this was only possible once every seven years) and making his salvation through the love of a woman.
In the title role, baritone Bela Perencz as the tormented sailor showed his prowess as a great Wagnerian singer as did soprano Alwyn Mellor as Senta who is obsessed with the legend of the Dutchman even unto death.
Strong support came from Swedish-born Mats Almgren as Senta’s father, Daland; Mati Turi from Estonia as Senta’s spurned suitor, Erik, and Ceri Williams as nurse Mary, who taught Senta the ballad of the Flying Dutchman.
Music fans, old and new, can’t have failed to add this early Wagner work to their favourites list as it straddled the past - it was played in its original, three-act form of 2 hours 30 minutes without an interval as the composer intended - and the present with modern technology providing constantly changing visuals on a giant screen, to accompany meaningful English titles by Simon Rees.
Opera North returns to Nottingham in November with fully staged productions, all sung in English, of two old favourites, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Janacek’s Jenufa, plus a new staging of Cole Porter’s Shakespearean classic Kiss Me, Kate.
But for Wagner fans, June 2016 is the month to watch when the company is back in town for a complete staging of its year-on-year presentation of the four instalments that comprise the Ring Cycle.
Full details of this epic undertaking can be obtained from www.theringcycle.co.uk, but for those anxious to book dates and times, including three early starts at 3pm, the line-up is:
Monday 6th June - The whole Ring Cycle gets underway in thrilling fashion at 7pm with Das Rheingold (2 hours 40 minutes, no interval).
Tuesday 7th June - The Ride of the Valkyries is just one of the highlights of Die Walkure, which requires early attendance from 3pm. (5 hours 40 minutes with two intervals, one of 30 minutes, the other 1 hour 15 minutes).
Thursday 8th June - It’s another 3pm start as the youthful hero Siegfried slays the dragon Fafner and steals the ring from the dragon’s hoard. (5 hours 50 minutes with two intervals, one of 30 minutes, the other 1 hour 15 minutes).
Saturday 11th June - It’s curtain up again at 3pm for the longest part of this 15-hour musical marathon with the awe-inspiring finale of Gotterdammerung sweeping the audience along from Siegfried’s Rhine Journey to his Funeral March. (6 hours and 30 minutes with two intervals, one of 1 hour 15 minutes, the other 30 minutes).
For further details of prices - which range from £15 to £55 for single tickets or £50 to £196 for the full cycle - and seat availability at the Royal Concert Hall contact the box office on 0115 9895555, or check the website at www.trch.co.uk
n Pictured are Mariner Daland (Mats Almgren, centre) as he introduces his daughter, Senta (soprano Alwyn Mellor) to the Dutchman (baritone Bela Perencz, left) in this scene from Opera North’s concert staging of The Flying Dutchman at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall on Saturday. They, and other leading Wagner interpreters, return to the city next June when the company stage the musical marathon of the Ring Cycle over four days. (Photo by Robert Workman)