Opera Review: The Flying Dutchman

This is the 38th season of the Atlanta Opera and the 2017/18 season is looking promising already. This past Saturday kicked off the first-ever showing of the new production of The Flying Dutchman before it heads to Cincinnati Opera and Houston Grand Opera.

Based on a Norwegian ghost story, The Flying Dutchman tells of the famed ghost ship doomed to wander the seas until its captain can find a wife. The ghost captain, the Dutchman (Wayne Tigges), finds his love in a sailor’s daughter, Senta (Melody Moore), who is trapped in an arranged marriage, but finds an escape from her mundane life through her obsession with the Dutchman. When the ghost ship makes port in her hometown, Senta is confronted with the consequences of her love.

The most wonderful thing about opera is how its meshed within mainstream society without people knowing. Even if you’ve never seen the opera or know the story, you and/or your children have experienced it subconsciously. If you have kids or have ever watched Spongebob Square Pants you might remember this:

Have you been following the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise? If so, you’ve heard the reference plenty of times and have even seen the ship!

If you’re of my generation (that would make you an 80’s baby) then you’ve probably seen Looney Tunes more than once. As a seasoned vet, I remember many a chase scenes with epic orchestral ringings in the ear. One of which, as I’m sure you guessed it, was The Flying Dutchman Overture:

So as you can see, the magic and wonder of opera are and has always been, all around us. In particular, that of The Flying Dutchman.

Before we’re introduced to The Dutchman or Senta, we find ourselves whisked away aboard a vessel on the high seas captained by Daland (Kristinn Sigmundsson). The captain entrusts the direction of the ship to Steuermann (Justin Stolz) while the rest of the crew turn in for the night. Steuermann sings of being homesick and as a seaman, the longing of the Southwind that would hurry them to port. This longing for the days of yesteryear causes him to fall asleep at the helm of the ship.

During his slumber, the ship is paid a visit by The Dutchman. (While viewing this performance be sure to watch for the subtle change in scenery. You’ll know of his presence when elements of the stage turn red in color like the sails of the ship). Eventually, Daland comes to check on Steuermann only to find him asleep at the helm. It immediately reminded me of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies when Alfred told Bard nothing had happened during the night when in reality, they had been infiltrated by an army of elves. That was the surprise Daland received when Steuermann lauds of an uneventful night while in reality, a foreign ship had docked with them. Upon meeting The Dutchman, Daland is mesmerized by the treasure he offers. In exchange for said treasure, he promised his daughter Senta to him in marriage.

The destination of both Daland’s ship and The Flying Dutchman are ashore where the factory lies. This factory is where Senta can be found, lamenting over the legend of The Dutchman. Within this factory lies a large painting which causes the employed women to sing of their lovers’ return. Senta is already in an arranged marriage with Erik (Jay Hunter Morris) but her true love lies for that of The Dutchman.

Legend has it (“The Ballad of the Dutchman”) that while rounding a cape during a storm, he had cursed and sworn, “In all eternity I’ll not give up!” Satan heard, took him at his word, and doomed him to sail forever. An angel took pity on him and promised redemption if he could find a wife willing to die for him. Senta cries out that she wants to be that wife.

This story is a dangerous tale of love, greed, and the frailty of the human heart. The ending is not what you’d expect. This variable of the unknown sets the exciting conclusion for Act III… Which you need to experience yourself!

I give The Flying Dutchman 8.5 out of 10. The singing is wonderful and the set design is as beautiful as it is massive. There are currently three opportunities to experience this amazing production before it heads off to Cincinnati. Tonight (Tuesday) Nov. 7 at 7:30 pm, Friday, Nov. 10 at 8:00 pm, and Sunday, Nov. 12 at 3:00 pm. Let it be known, this is a true masterpiece in its production and runs 2 hrs. and 30 mins. plus two intermissions (so make sure those senses are awakened!). You can get your tickets directly on the Atlanta Opera website.

Bravo!

-Jon J.

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