Der fliegende Holländer

Hartmut Haenchen
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
6 March 2013
Teatro alla Scala Milano
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
DalandAin Anger
SentaAnja Kampe
ErikKlaus Florian Vogt
MaryRosalind Plowright
Der Steuermann DalandsDominik Wortig
Der HolländerBryn Terfel
Opera News

In terms of its emotional impact, Andreas Homoki’s La Scala production of Der Fliegende Holländer (shared with Zurich and Oslo) was little more than a concert performance. And not even a “concert in costume,” for the characters were dressed in the standardized (mainly grey and black) uniforms of the stalestRegietheater, which in no way heightened the audience’s imaginative identification with Wagner’s characters. The setting was equally neutral: Act I was presented not on a rocky coastline but in the wood-paneled offices of a shipping company, with a map of Africa on the wall. (The director was apparently attempting a critique of colonialism, but one would never have guessed.) The romantic mood of the score was consistently undermined in other ways too: the spinning maidens in Act II were turned into typists, and Senta committed suicide in Act III by shooting herself with Erik’s hunting rifle. (Her subsequent transfiguration was left entirely to our imaginations.) It was thus hardly surprising that the audience responded tepidly at the end of the performance on March 6, in spite of some colorful and idiomatic playing by the orchestra, led by Hartmut Haenchen, and the undeniable conviction shown by the well-rehearsed cast onstage.

Bryn Terfel certainly possesses the charisma needed for the title role, and his physical presence conveys the otherness of the Dutchman to striking effect. But there was little sense of mystery in his phrasing (although one enjoyed the clarity of his diction), and the big climaxes would have proved more effective if there had been more soft singing to contrast with them. Overall, his was an interesting but hardly definitive performance. The same could be said of Anja Kampe. She has the purity of tone and openness of visage that we associate with Senta, and she phrased her music on a large scale, with unfailing emotional generosity. Her highest notes, however, were produced in too open a manner for them to be able to expand, as the music requires.

Klaus Florian Vogt proved a good-looking Erik, singing with pleasing tone and musical precision, although his turns (an all-important embellishment in Wagner) lacked elegance. Ain Anger, heavily penalized by the production, proved a dully monochromatic Daland (somewhat strained on top). It is surprising that La Scala couldn’t find a Steuermann with a less constricted upper register than Dominik Wortig’s. Rosalind Plowright’s Mary — here presented as neurotic rather than simply unimaginative — functioned well enough on its own terms.

But the greatest musical pleasure of the evening was provided by the Scala chorus, prepared by Bruno Casoni (and now well-practiced in Wagner). The male voices in particular rang out to truly evocative effect as the mariners — although it was hard to take them seriously when they were dressed as bowler-hatted office workers.


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A production by Andreas Homoki