CDs / DVDs

Fanfare Magazin, 01. July 2011
Bass Robert Lloyd, who sings Daland in this Netherlands Opera production of Der fliegende Holländer, allows that “traditional Wagnerians will find it quite challenging.” Probably, many will. The time is the present day, or close to it, and instead of a Norwegian commercial vessel heading for home in Scandinavia, Daland commands a luxury yacht cruising a warmer part of the world. The Dutchman’s crew may be outlaws, of the Somali pirate sort. The staging is provocative and hyper-dramatic, growing in extremity until an over-the-top conclusion: Erik, who has already slaughtered a few of the Dutchman’s crew, fires two rounds from his double-barreled shotgun to assure that Senta and the Dutchman are indeed united in death.
It’s extreme, all right: Wagner as verissmo, or at least as Verdi. Still, the essence of Wagner’s “Romantic Opera in three acts” has been preserved. The two protagonists recognize their profound isolation, differentness, and need for release—“redemption” in the case of the Dutchman and for Senta, tormented by a movie-queen Mary, escape from the intolerable circumstances of her daily existence. The excellent cast is fully committed to stage director Martin Kušej’s concept and delivers consistently musically satisfying performnaces. Lloyd represents Daland as a proto-Gunther kind of fop, rather than the bluff and unsophisticated sea captain we’ve come to expect. California-born Catherine Naglestad sings Senta with an intensity that manifests just how desparately she wants to escape her current life, surrounded by sneering, preening females. Juha Uusitalo, a commanding Wotan/Wanderer in the nonpareil Valencia Ring, shapes his longer speeches with a sure lyrical instinct. For the radically reimagined role of Erik, Marco Jentzsch creates a menacing presence with his assertive Heldentenor instrument. (Other Wagnerian roles of his include Lohengrin, Walther, and Froh.) Jentzsch’s recounting of Erik’s dream in the final act is pretty scary.
Hartmut Haenchen must be considered a leading contemporary Wagner interpreter, with two complete Ring cycles on disc with the Netherlands Opera—one on DVD, the other on SACD—and he leads a performance that presses ahead effectively. Incorporated are the pretty-much standard alterations the composer made to the score after the 1843 Dresden premiere up until 1860 Paris performances (when, for example, a Tristanesque harp was added at the very end). Haenchen is an enthusiastic advocate of Kušej’s “pioneering vision.” Richard Wagner, the conductor observes, “was hardly ever content with anything. It shows that we, as interpreters, have the right to go further, to get everything out of his masterpieces that we can.” The Netherland Philharmonic Orchestra’s playing is top-notch and the choral work unassailable. Opus Arte’s high-resolution sound is quite good, both the stereo and 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio options. Subtitles are offered in English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch.
With this release, all 10 of Wagner’s mature stage works—plus Rienzi—are now available on Blu-ray, a mere three years after operas first appeared in the format. Given the unending popularity and seemingly endless interpretive possibilities of this music—as well as their responsiveness to the most advanced AV technology—I’m not the least bit surprised.
Andrew Quint