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THE 'DUTCHMAN' COMETH AT PRECISELY THE RIGHT TIME.

Byline: Damian Kessler Correspondent

THERE WAS a traffic jam on Grand Avenue, and the opera patrons looked like a wave of refined refugees.

After days of enduring the bombardment of images of the war with Iraq, the audience of a sold-out Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was ready for the suggestive romantic ecstasy of ``The Flying Dutchman'' and the excellent production presented by the Los Angeles Opera on Saturday night.

You don't need to be politically persecuted, an uprooted homeless drifter, a sexually frustrated misogynist, a megalomaniac or an anti-Semitic racist to identify with the artistry of German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). There was also the reflective side of his moon that vastly influenced the way we look and listen to opera.

``The Flying Dutchman'' (``Der Fliegende Hollander'' Wagner's fourth opera, is considered to be the first one to embody the composer's idea of poetry, stage setting, visible action and continuous music working closely together, like sister arts, for a dramatic musical purpose. It was this idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk integrated artwork), which influenced later composers profoundly.

Wagner wrote the libretto for ``The Flying Dutchman'' himself. The plot is not based on any frequent-flier-miles program but on Heinrich Heine's retelling of a South African nautical legend of a Dutch sea captain who is condemned by the devil to circumnavigate endlessly around The Cape of Good Hope. The wandering Dutchman (now in the coast of Norway and traditionally viewed as the Jewish outsider, alienated from German society and incapable of real assimilation) may land once every seven years to search for the faithful woman whose true love will be his only salvation. He finds it in Senta, the daughter of Daland, a Norwegian seaman willing to offer her hand in marriage for a reasonable price paid in jewels.

Brazilian-born Vera Calabria directed this L.A. Opera revival of the 1995 production conceived by Julie Taymor (``The Lion King'' and ``Frida,'' among others). Here, Daland's ship looks like the X-ray of a big whale. The wooden structure is divided into four independent skeletons, three of which rock to the shocks of furious waves illustrated in a collage of shadows and lights. To move these hydraulic, sometimes-noisy structures, members of the L.A. Opera chorus pirouetted back and forth while singing well and securing ropes from a high sun deck. Your heart stopped now and then - it looked like Opera du Soleil.

Baritone Bernd Weikl was the pale-looking Dutchman who told the story with passion, power and, most of the time, good voice. Russian soprano Mlada Khoudoley was the beautiful Senta, obsessed with a painting of the sailor. Her mechanical movements preceded her thoughts, but she sang convincingly with a big and homogeneous instrument.

Matti Salmien, as Daland, showed a priceless and rich, resonant voice. Donald Kaasch was the faithful Erik who beautifully sang his love to the indifferent Senta. Holding the rudder in order to keep his balance - and his neck - tenor Greg Fedderly was the sleepy steersman who sounded fresh. Suzanna Guzman, as the old nurse Mary, tried to convince the maidens to keep spinning a thousand threads in order to find a lover.

The L.A. Opera orchestra, conducted by Klaus Weise, sounded strong describing the recurring winds with muscles of the violas and the roaring waves with a loud resonance coming from a wall of brass during the stormy passages. But there were also moments of much-needed tender lyricism as the lovers sang the folk-based love songs.

Wagner, a man preoccupied with the theme of salvation, was probably half right in one of his thoughts. It is true that we can find peace through his great work of art, although not for an infinite time - but for two hours and 45 minutes.

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN - Three and one half stars

Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sunday, April 2, 6, 8 and 1 p.m. April 12.

Tickets: $30 to $170. (213) 365-3500; www.LosAngelesOpera.com.

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Photo:

Baritone Bernd Weikl is the title character in L.A. Opera's muscular rendition of ``The Flying Dutchman.''
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Title Annotation:Review; U
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 25, 2003
Words:686
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