Dorset Opera – The Flying Dutchman

AFTER 38 years, Dorset Opera has finally succumbed to Richard Wagner, in celebration of the composer’s bicentenary, and mounted two performances of his most accessible work The Flying Dutchman at the Coade Hall at Bryanston School.

The other production also marked a bicentenary, of Guiseppi Verdi, with his La Traviata directed by Jonathan Miller.

The story of The Flying Dutchman is one of those seafaring tales of curses and ghost ships that have informed music, literature and film since time immemorial (perhaps most recently the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise!).

Senta, the daughter of a Norwegian sea captain, is obsessed with the story of a man destined to live forever on a ship manned by a ghostly crew after he cursed the Almighty when his ship foundered off a remote cape. His only “salvation” will be the love of a faithful woman, and she wants to be that woman.

When her father’s ship anchors alongside another vessel in a storm, his sailors don’t notice that their new companion has no visible crew. It is the Dutchman.

The magnificent African American bass baritone Mark S Doss made his Dorset debut in the title role, exuding both the charisma and the weary torment of the role, and he was powerfully coupled with Lee Bisset’s magnetic Senta, a woman whose determination matches her obsessive love.

John Hudson returned to Bryanston as Erik, Senta’s faithful huntsman and Richard Weigold sang captain Daland with great skill, though director Paul Carr’s decision to have him as a pompous and vaguely comic figure did not fit well with the story.

Tyler Clarke’s clear and chipper Steersman and Clare Shearer’s bustling housekeeper headed the wonderful Dorset Opera men’s and women’s choruses, singing their hearts out in this challenging score, for which they had to learn German as well as the music in three short weeks of workshops. GP-W

Footnote. It’s a pity for Dorset Opera that its 2013 season clashed with the Proms Barenboim Ring Cycle, which kept the London critics in the overheated circle of the Royal Albert Hall for the week.


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