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Thread: Der Fliegende Hollander at the Bayerische Staatsoper

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Der Fliegende Hollander at the Bayerische Staatsoper

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    Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), Romantic Opera in three acts, sung in German, with German and English surtitles
    Music by Richard Wagner
    Libretto by Richard Wagner, based on Heinrich Heine's retelling of the legend in his 1833 satirical novel Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski - The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski.
    Wagner conducted the premiere at the Semperoper in Dresden in 1843.

    Repertory production, attended in person on July 2, 2018 at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Germany. For more information, consult

    This article is part of the Opera Lively coverage of opera houses in the German-speaking area of Central Europe in the Summer of 2018 - see the links to numerous other reviews, interviews, pictorial blogs, and other articles related to this coverage, by clicking [here]

    Bayerisches Staatsorchester conducted by Bertrand de Billy
    Chor der Bayerische Staatsoper, chorus master Sören Eckhoff

    Stage Director Peter Konwitschny
    Sets and Costumes Johannes Leiacker
    Lighting Michael Bauer
    Dramaturg Werner Hintze


    • Daland - Franz-Josef Selig
    • Senta - Elena Stikhina
    • Erik - Tomislav Mužek
    • Mary - Okka von der Damerau
    • Der Steuermann - Dean Power
    • Der Holländer - Wolfgang Koch


    My respect for the Bayerische Staatsoper is now up there somewhere in Earth's stratosphere. In my entire life I unfortunately only attended two operas there - the Parsifal I reviewed yesterday (and got a grade above the maximum), and this Flying Dutchman today. After a fabulous day visiting the beautiful city of Munich (München), and two excellent meals (lunch, and then a post-opera dinner), all I can say is that I'd love to move to Munich and get a season subscription to the Bayerische - what was I thinking when I traveled elsewhere, instead of coming every year to this lovely city and this spectacular opera company?

    I could subtitle this review "Der fliegende Holländer comes alive" - pun intended. We got another extraordinary performance, folks. OK, not as unforgettable as yesterday's, which I ranked the best one I've ever attended, but still phenomenal.

    But it didn't start well. I thought I'd be disappointed. The comfort and the acoustics of this great house of course where the same, and the expertise of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester hasn't changed, but the sets looked underwhelming in the first scene (more on this later), and the two singers who appeared on stage weren't as impressive as their counterparts of yesterday.

    Surprisingly I wasn't extremely pleased with the most famous of tonight's singer, Franz-Josef Selig, whose diction I found garbled. The voice is very beautiful and deep; it's just that the articulation of the words was sort of slurred. One thinks of Dame Sutherland who sounded divinely but we couldn't understand what she was saying. Still, given the quality of the sheer sounds produced, I grant him an A-.

    Dean Power was definitely a weak link; the only singer yesterday and today (and this includes all comprimarios in Parsifal, like I said) that actually wasn't that good. B-.

    The problem got mitigated when Wolfgang Koch came in; whew, what a singer! Truly excellent in all regards. A++.

    The sets for the first act were the ancient-looking cardboard type that sometimes we seen in period Baroque productions, with fake waves in the background and some rocks that looked really fake (intentionally, I suppose). The two ships did not appear (and I've seen many Flying Dutchman productions where they do, sometimes to great effect depending on how well it's done in terms of theatrical special effects and projections). Rather, the boarding ramps were deployed, so that it was suggested that the ships were anchored just outside the stage space. Maybe it's nitpicking but then the sailors coming in and out caused a weird unrealistic effect: some came in and out by taking the ramp; but others just walked horizontally to the sides of the stage. Erm... where did they go? Did they suddenly open a hole in the ship to board it? That would sink the thing. I thought that it wouldn't take much for the director to just make all sailors take the ramps. There weren't as many sailors that would cause a blocking problem. Doing it in a way that is physically impossible in my exigent opinion is exactly a blocking problem.

    Why did I say that the fake-looking, ancient Baroque-production sets were intentional? Because when the second scene opened, the whole house came down laughing! It was a very pleasant surprise, and I'm glad that I didn't read any review of this production, so it wasn't spoiled for me. I'm quite sure the director did it like this exactly to cause this surprise.

    Even though Daland's sailors were in contemporary clothes (while the Dutchman's appropriately looked more ancient and more ghostly), the public didn't expect that what was suggested as a sort of atemporal setting tending to the oldish (and of course the first scene was very dark with the storm and all), suddenly explodes in bright white light and hugely colorful costumes... in a modern gym! The spinning in question here is done in stationary bikes! The ladies have gym sweatpants of all colors, and the effect was truly hilarious.

    We then get to meet our Senta.

    Oh! My! God!

    What is in the pre-natal vitamins in Russia? Did the Russians invent some sort of secret pill that makes the female babies grow into stunning-looking opera singers with divine voices? How come the Russians seem to churn out these very beautiful ladies with voices to die for, one after the other??

    I had never heard of Elena Stikhina before, except that yesterday my seat neighbor, also an opera journalist (we all sit together in a row that the Press Department reserves for the critics, apparently), had already warned me to watch out for a phenomenal singer, this new Russian girl whose name he couldn't remember but was a Senta for the ages.

    Indeed! She was the best Senta I've ever seen on stage or on DVD. She looks great and can sing! Write down this name, dear readers. Elena Stikhina. Another great Russian who is coming to the West: she trained in the conservatory in Moscow, then went to the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, and from there she's been singing in German houses: the Semperoper, Baden-Baden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, and this is her debut at the Bayerische. She came closer to America when she did a Tatiana at the Opéra National de Paris. Please, Ms. Stikhina, come to the Met! (Or rather, please Met cast directors, hire Ms. Stikhina!). A++ too!

    Our Erik was also excellent. Tomislav Mužek has the perfect voice for the role: well-tuned lyrical tenor instrument but with enough power to face Wagner's orchestration. A+.

    The sets for the final scene weren't as surprising as the modern gym, but were good enough - a modern-looking tavern that did the job well.

    Overall, then, these sets get an A-, with the touch of genius of the gym rescuing the other, less interesting sets.

    Kudos to Peter Konwitschny. This is the kind of concept that works. One needs to see the scenes in the gym to realize how well these sets matched the libretto and the music, surprisingly, down to some very interesting touches: when Senta kicks Erik out, she chases him out a door, and then angrily slams it, right on a brass/percussion burst. She starts walking away, then pauses and comes back (as Wagner's music goes into some other ornamentation), opens the door again and looks at where he went... then decides to really slam the door again... right when the same motif returns to the brass and percussion sections, to the public's delight and laughs! There were other moments like this; for example, Daland also makes gestures that perfectly match the music. A+.

    Did I mention the chorus? Again, it didn't unlearn anything since yesterday. Another great performance! A++.

    Bertrand de Billy did really well, but not as impressively as Kirill Petrenko yesterday. A++ maximum score but not above the maximum like Petrenko.

    The main characteristic of this show was how lively it was. This is why I made the bit of a pun with the subtitle. Time flew... another pun intended, hehe. Wagner's music was allowed to shine with a force almost unheard of for this opera, which is generally not considered to be among his very best. I have never felt this entertained by a performance of the Flying Dutchman. The orchestra, the conductor, the chorus, the singer, and a Senta to die for (reverse pun here; she is the one who dies for the Dutchman, but it should be the other way around).

    Overall grade, A+, close to A++ except that a few elements brought the final score a notch down. Extremely enjoyable.

    I am regretful that I'll be leaving Munich tomorrow morning. The consolation is that tomorrow at 4 PM I'll be interviewing the legendary Siegfried Jerusalem in Nuremberg. I look forward to my visit to the other companies, but I'm afraid they will have a hard time matching the Bayerische Staatsoper.

    Curtain calls, Opera Lively pictures:

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    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); July 6th, 2018 at 08:10 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Pictorial Blog, photos of Munich (credits unknown, fair promotional use)

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    Bayerische Staatsoper
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    The review of Der fliegende Holländer is now complete. Scroll up.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    The review of Der fliegende Holländer is now complete. Scroll up.
    Awesome! Having a great Dutchman and Eric is very important, but having the most awesome Senta ever really make this opera.

    As for holes that would sink a ship, the new DVD Dutchman has stuff like that.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    So you know I'm not bovvered about sopranos but I must say you have a point about Elena Stikhina. She is fabulous.

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I only had a chance to spend a few days there back in '84, but I loved Munich and am so glad you've had a great visit there.

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