A Night at the Opera


A date night with the Austin Opera’s production of The Flying Dutchman.  While we had attended Opera’s abroad when on vacation, tonight was our first trip to our enjoy our local Austin Opera.  I was spurred into action by the particular opera being performed.  I just love gothic romance and the Flying Dutchman is a masterpiece.

The Flying Dutchman is the captain of a legendary ghost ship that is doomed to sail the oceans forever. Wagner’s German-language opera premiered in 1843 to tell a tale of redemption and love.  Wagner originally had the opera performed without an intermission however, like a number of other opera houses today, Austin performed it in three acts in the lovely Long Center for Performing Arts.

Cast

The Dutchman — Wayne Tigges, baritone
Senta — Melody Moore, soprano
Erik — Clay Hilley, tenor
Daland — Peter Volpe, bass

Production

Composer & Librettist: Richard Wagner | Sung in German with English supertitles.
Conductor: Richard Buckley | Stage Director: Eric Einhorn | Chorus Master: Julian Reed

The Story

Act 1
We meet Daland, a well to do sea captain and father of an unwed daughter, who is forced to take port in stormy weather.  As night falls, Daland takes to bed and places a young man on watch.   The young man falls asleep and dreams of a ghostly captain lamenting his plight: The captain is cursed to roam the seas for eternity unless he can find a faithful woman to wed.  When Daland awakes, he meets a stranger in black.  The stranger has heard of Daland’s daughter and offers gold and jewels for her hand in marriage– Daland happily accepts.

Act 2
The scene opens with Senta, Daland’s daugher, and a stage full of women waiting for their lovers to return.  The group of them tease Senta about her school girl crush on the Flying Dutchman.  When the other women disappear, we’re introduced to Erik, Senta’s suitor, as he pleas for her to discuss his desire for her hand with her father.  A moment later Daland enters with the stranger in black.  Senta is mesmerized.  Daland informs his daughter that he has brought this stranger to be her husband.  Despite the stranger’s warning not to make a hasty decision, Senta enthusiastically accepts the match realizing he is the object of her crush.  Daland could not be more pleased with his daughter’s reaction.

Act 3
During the villager’s celebration of the sailor’s return, they are frightened by the silence and haunting of the ghost ship. After the villagers disperse, Senta appears.  Erik continues to beg her not to go with the Dutchman claiming they had declared their love for each other in the past.  The Dutchman overhears this exchange, loses hope, and sets out to return to his ship.  Senta begs him not to go.  He tells her she will escape eternal damnation since she did not betray him for they had yet to stand at the alter.  Despite her cries, his course is not swayed.  As the dutchman sails away, Senta throws herself into the sea declaring she is faithful unto death– an act that releases the Dutchman from his purgatory.

The Performance

Most notably, Melody Moore’s Austin Opera debut performance as Senta was absolutely wonderful.  Her solo song to the Dutchman in Act 2 was the most beautiful piece of the entire evening

I have never listened to an Opera in German and while I do not find the language to lend itself well to melodious coos, the performers managed to pull it off.  Most notably, Melody Moore’s Austin Opera debut performance as Senta was absolutely wonderful.  Her solo song to the Dutchman in Act 2 was the most beautiful piece of the entire evening.  I also greatly enjoyed the detailed costumes.  My only complaint about the production wasn’t with the performers, but with the set.  I do not enjoy the use of projected backgrounds.  I know some might appreciate the more modern effects it can have, but I feel it cheapens the whole experience of a live performance.  I know Austin can produce more elaborate sets (I remember being quite impressed by the set of Austin Ballet’s Don Quixote), but here we fell a bit short.  Putting the projection aside, the set was rather simplistic with a single large piece rotated to provide both the ship and the indoor/outdoor areas.  However the diagonal positioning and use of the stage space was well done.   In total, the performance was a delight and the whole experience a wonderful date night.  I’m sure we will return.

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