‘My longing is for release:
O that it might come about through an angel like this!’
The time is the 17th century and the place is the Norwegian coast. ‘The Flying Dutchman’ tells the tale of the legendary, accursed phantom ship doomed to sail the oceans forever. The sole chance of salvation for the sea captain, the Dutchman, comes every seven years when the cruel gods allow him to go ashore to search for a woman who can be forever faithful to him, but any straying will condemn her to eternal damnation. His chance comes, however, when he meets Daland, ( Peter Rose), a sea captain; who is remarkably willing to offer his daughter Senta in exchange for the Dutchman’s riches.
The Dutchman is powerfully sung by the dark bass-baritone- brooding Bryn Terfel, though I have to admit I found the Dutchman’s moody complaints a bit wearisome. Continue reading Der Fliegende Holländer
at The Royal Opera House
2nd April, 2014
‘Ye wedded folk, lying in each other’s arms, you are the bridge against the great abyss, on which the dead return again to life! Blessed be the fruit of your love!’
Fairy tale conventions feature conflicts between good and evil, with magic and luck usually determining happy endings. Universal human emotions such as love, hate, courage, kindness, and cruelty are the main ingredients. William Strauss’s ‘Die Frau Ohne Schatten’ has all these though there is some over indulgence from the librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s plot that defies summary – it is absolutely stuffed with symbol and parable. Therefore, it does not have customary fairy tale simplicity; the complexity of the opera leaves you wondering just how much has been absorbed. Perhaps, for the greatest part, the opera is clearly an allegorical fairy tale reflecting on a loveless marriage. Here, the idea that a woman can only be fulfilled by having children would cause Germaine Greer and Caitlin Moran to scream in protest. But hey, this is early twentieth century with an all pervading sense of patriarchy.
The richness and complexity of Hofmannsthal’s writing obviously inspired Strauss to compose one of his densest and daunting scores. So it is not surprising that his magnum opus is rarely staged.
The narrative concerns two couples: the Emperor (Johan Botha) and Empress (Emily Magee)—he, a mortal human, she, the daughter of the spirit god Keikobad—and Barak, the Dyer (the opera’s only character who has a name), a poor but decent man, and his dissatisfied young wife who is vulnerable to being unfaithful. Between them stands the Empress’s Nurse, a diabolical woman of the spirit world who hates anything human. After a year of marriage, the Empress is still without a shadow—Hofmannsthal’s symbol for motherhood. If she doesn’t conceive, her human husband will be turned to stone and she will have to return to her father. Like all good fairy tales, a deadline of three days is imposed for the Empress to succeed. In order to aid her mistress, the Nurse plots to steal a shadow from the Dyer’s Wife (Elena Pankratova). Continue reading Die Frau Ohne Schatten