Der fliegende Holländer

David Robertson
St. Louis Symphony Chorus and Orchestra
Date/Location
6 May 2017
Powell Symphony Hall St Louis
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
DalandRaymond Aceto
SentaMarjorie Owens
ErikRodrick Dixon
MaryJoy Boland
Der Steuermann DalandsPaul Appleby
Der HolländerAlan Held
Gallery
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A grand ‘Flying Dutchman’ from SLSO

This weekend marks the end of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s 2016-17 subscription series, with two concert performances of a grand opera.

On Thursday night, David Robertson led a fine cast of soloists, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and the SLSO in Richard Wagner’s “Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman).” It was accompanied by projections from designer S. Katy Tucker, originally produced for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The stage of Powell Hall boasted the temporary addition of a pair of ship’s sails, side by side; one was atop the other in Sydney, but this hall lacks the height to stack them. The singers worked on a platform behind the chorus and orchestra, which gave them space to move and better acoustics than the usual spot near the podium provides.

The lights were dimmed for the projections, with stand lights and (poorly wielded) spotlights for illumination. The opera, officially in three acts, was given in two, with the first two divided from the third by an intermission.

The performance got off to a slow start, with some not-entirely-together singing and playing by both chorus and orchestra. It picked up with the arrival of tenor Paul Appleby’s Steersman, singing his yearning aria with lyric sweetness and clarity. By Act 2, everything fell into place.

As the Dutchman, bass-baritone Alan Held held the stage in fine Wagnerian style and sang with conviction as the captain who hopes to finally find a woman who will be faithful to him unto death.

Soprano Marjorie Owens, a pleasure in “Ariadne on Naxos” at Opera Theatre of St. Louis last year, seemed a little weak in her first entrance as Senta but rapidly gained in strength while losing none of the beauty of her sound. She has presence and passion to go with the voice, and she made us believe in her character’s noble obsession.

The production was blessed in its tenors. Along with Appleby, Rodrick Dixon made a powerful impression as Erik, the hunter who loves Senta. Dixon has a big, rich voice and turned a character who can seem unsympathetic into much more than a dramatic plot device.

Bass Raymond Aceto made a solid contribution as Daland, Senta’s avaricious father, who decides to give his beloved daughter to a spectral stranger when he sees the Dutchman’s chest of glittering jewels. Soprano Joy Boland was a delight as Mary, supervisor of the village women as they spun and sang.

An opera chorus is a different beast than a symphony chorus, but Amy Kaiser’s ensemble got into the dramatic demands. The orchestra, an experienced pit band, rose to the challenges of Wagner. Robertson clearly loves and gets this score.

Tucker’s projections, filled with splashing waves and images of the Dutchman’s face, were mostly effective, although the constant changes sometimes distracted from the music; the ending wasn’t her best moment.

Before the start of the performance, Robertson came out with percussionist John Kasica, who will retire at the end of the season, and acknowledged his 46 years with the SLSO. He noted that Kasica has worked under five music directors, “and he survived all of us.”

Sarah Bryan Miller | May 5, 2017

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Semi-staged performance with projections by S. Katy Tucker