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NZ Opera’s The Flying Dutchman – What A Brooding Tale

New Zealand Opera’s The Flying Dutchman – What A Brooding Tale

Review by Selwyn Manning. All images by and courtesy of Neil MacKenzie.

It must be one of the most brooding operas to have cast its dark spell on a New Zealand audience in quite a time.


NZ Opera The Flying Dutchman - Jason Howard - The Dutchman & Orla Boylan-Senta. Photo credit Neil Mackenzie

The Flying Dutchman is a tale steeped in sinister superstition, where the mysterious captain of a doomed ship is cursed by Satan to roam the oceans.

Through storms and tempests he and his ghostly crew are tossed and almost wrecked, time and again The Dutchman (played by Welshman, Jason Howard) prays for death to end their suffering. But death seems elusive and his only respite from the misery is being permitted to take to land once in every seven years.

The reasons for The Dutchman's dreadful curse are numerous. But it is his obsession that is the overwhelming consequence of the eternal torment that is bestowed on him. It is slight to suggest his continence is merely grim, and as superstition goes his only hope of redemption is to take a faithful woman and to marry.

He's tried his luck several times before (perhaps that's where the saying the seven year itch comes from), but as the story goes... well let's say it ended in more than tears.

But this time, there appears to be promise. Enter Senta, the daughter of an un-cursed captain whose only apparent temptation is the lust for fortune and treasure. Senta (superbly played by Orla Boylan of Ireland) it seems has already heard of The Flying Dutchman, heard of his tale of woe, and of his suffering. This latter point is quite an attraction to her. She dreams of being his one true savior through whom The Flying Dutchman's redemption can be found.

And for awhile it seems a happy ending could be in evidence... While adrift offshore from his home port Senta's father Daland (played by Cantabrian, Paul Whelan), who is also a captain but of a more cheerful ship, is befriended by the grim Dutchman. Daland puts his suspicions aside and listens to The Dutchman's pitch... he barters a handful of treasure for the hand in marriage of Senta (sight unseen).

The father Daland agrees.

But as things unravel, as is so often the case in these age-old tales, the unexpected happens. What? Well, let's just say sometimes when we seek salvation and redemption through the good heart of another, instead of the significant-other lifting us up to glory, our own demons drag them down into hell.

The opera and score is one of Richard Wagner's masterpieces powerfully performed by Auckland Philharmonia and conducted by Wyn Davies. And, New Zealand Opera's director Matthew Lutton draws a stand-out performance from Boylan, Howard and his ghostly sailor cast. And throughout this opera their sheer presence weaves an unearthly backstory to The Dutchman's plight.

Other stand-out performances flow from Englishman Peter Auty who plays Erik, Aucklander, Wendy Doyle who plays Mary, and Tokoroan, Shaun Dixon who plays The Steersman.

Once again the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus delivers in full. The choreography and acting is clever, it bridges the superstitions of 1843 - when Wagner's The Flying Dutchman was first performed in Dresden - to the gestures of youth today. And the performers' singing positions this Chorus as a feature element in its own right.

With every superb opera there's a trick in the tale, and with this New Zealand Opera performance... in a marvelous symbiosis between Wyn Davies' Auckland Philharmonia and Matthew Lutton's New Zealand Opera cast and crew... the ending has a most dramatic conclusion!

This is another must see performance by New Zealand Opera http://nzopera.com/2013/the-flying-dutchman.

Do check it out, I promise you the story will linger with you for quite a time...

You can book here: http://www.the-edge.co.nz/Event-Pages/F/Flying-Dutchman.aspx

The remaining Auckland performance dates at the Aotea Centre are:
Tuesday Oct 8, 10, and Saturday 12.

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