Met's New Dutchman Drowns
|Dutchman set, photo @ Ken Howard|
Instead, the performance was a shipwreck. I knew we were in for a long night when in the exciting overture Valery Gergiev ambled along with no urgency. This wasn't a storm -- more like a drizzle. The brass was out of tune. Gergiev's slow, lifeless conducting hampered the entire evening. He also seemed oblivious to the singers onstage -- the coordination between the pit and the singers was non-existent.
|Nikitin in the title role, photo @ Ken Howard|
Dramatically he was wooden and disconnected. This might not have been his fault -- in Girard's conception of the role Dutchman is 100% a ghost. To drive that point home, he has no ship, and his "crew" is a weirdly-miked offstage chorus. He's also "followed" by a black shadow projection in the background. He never touches anyone in the opera and disappears as he appears -- a phantom in his own opera (pun intended).
|Anja Kampe and Senta's friends, photo @ Ken Howard|
|Poor Erik, photo @ Ken Howard|
The production by Francois Girard was a disappointment in every way. I was very keen on his Parsifal but this production was muddled in concept and execution.
The sets by John MacFarlane are traditional -- Daland's ship is a big actual ship. The craggy rocks of the Norwegian shore look nice and evocative. The costumes by Moritz Junge are 19th century period dress.
Girard's direction. however, makes several decisions that undercut the drama of the opera. As I mentioned earlier Dutchman is a soulless ghost in this production. There's nothing real or human about him. He has no ship, the crew is an offstage chorus, he's followed by a big blobby black shadow projection, and he never touches or makes eye contact with anyone in the opera. Even the gold coins that Dutchman offers Daland in Girard's vision is a shiny crystal that resembles the Nibelungen gold hoard. By the final act. everyone in the chorus is carrying a shiny crystal. There's a metaphor about greed being infectious in there somewhere, just not sure what this has to do with Dutchman.
|Senta's girls, photo @ Ken Howard|
Even in her final scene, she is an afterthought -- instead of leaping off the cliff she is carried high by the army of friends. She leans backward (I guess to symbolize jumping off the cliff) and disappears into the crowd. In the apotheosis, Senta and Dutchman do not reunite. The ending has no excitement or emotional impact.
|The Senta Dancer, photo @ Ken Howard|
|The finale of the opera, photo @ Ken Howard|
The Flying Dutchman was the last new production of the Met season and by far the most disappointing. Hopefully, in a few years, a stronger cast can breathe some life into Girard's production. But tonight the performance was drowned by poor vocals and weak direction. Wagner deserves better.