BWW Review: THE FLYING DUTCHMAN Vanishes Too Quickly from Austin, TX
Presented during The Austin's Opera's 30th anniversary season, THE FLYING DUTCHMAN commands the historic Long Center's stage with a diverse, collective cast and belting operatic sequences. The origins of the story of The Flying Dutchman are rather skewed between timelines. The story first appeared in Travels in various parts Europe, Asia, and Africa in 1790 by John MacDonald, and again when Richard Wagner's operatic rendition came to life in 1843, after being adapted from an episode of Heinrich Heine's satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski. More modernly, the story of The Flying Dutchman is told through the highly loved film series, The Pirates of The Carribean. Regardless of the interpretations by creative minds, one fact remains true - The Flying Dutchman refers to a ghostly ship destined to sail the seas for all eternity. Richard Wagner's rendition, sure to please both critics and audiences alike, is bringing this haunted tale to life with the reputation of precision that precedes The Austin Opera.
Beginning with an orchestral piece introducing the story to come, the mood of the music toggled between the theme-like adagio variations and rich timbre. These differences resonated through the grand hall of The Long Center and played well with the visual performance on stage. These waves of booming sound complimented the roiling waves of the sea, digitally represented onstage using modern projection with fluid transitions from one progression to the next. This introduction was accompanied with droplets of sweet melody, seeming to represent Senta, (played by Melody Moore). The virtue and elusive promise of a woman calming the dark and stormy seas is expressed through Wagner's sprinkling of charming melody and pure light tones.
This dichotomy travels through the show with our protagonist, the Dutchman himself (played by Wayne Tigges), agonizing over Satan's sentence - banishing him from dry land. Only once every seven years may he venture ashore to find a wife. The Devilish catch is that if the woman drifts astray and does not keep her virtue to him, he is doomed once again to endless travel at sea. Tigges' individual pieces were masterful in their execution as he agonized over his sea legs and mournful fate. During Tigges performance, sharing his time on the open ocean, the connection with the audience was palpable, and the melodrama fit superbly. Daland (played by Peter Volpe) is a fellow captain also attempting to dock his ship and escape the storm-tossed seas. After seeing The Dutchman's wealth and generosity, Daland decides to invite the Dutchman to meet his daughter Senta (Melody Moore) who, unknowingly to Daland and The Dutchman, pines away over the sad "sailor" exiled to the sea. The interactions between Volpe and Tigges is what is to be expected of these two accomplished performers. The drama and progression was smooth-sailing on land and this has much to do with the interaction between these seasoned vocalists.
Moore was the right combination of sweet and spicy to execute the role of the desperate Senta. Her conviction of love and admiration proclaimed through a ballad sung to her fellow seamstresses, was beautiful and lively executed. Moore's love triangle introduced with a local man Erik (played by Clay Hilley) added another element of drama and surprising abuse. This plot line displayed the full circle love story of unrequited and missed love. While Hilley and Moore command the stage independently, this pair was disconnected during their performance, causing their scenes to drag on. The tension was lacking and felt forced from both parties to create a heightened state of drama that unfortunately fell flat.
The ensemble cast and direction of this show were well fitting to the piece and delightful when the nuances were caught. The diverse cast for both sailors and maidens was quite impressive. A highlight was a largely coordinated scene of drinking and dancing while taunting the neighboring ghostly sailors accompanying The Dutchman. The interpretation of the haunted sailors was visually striking and genuinely spooky for audience members. The amount of detail and care put into the images and sounds of the stage and set demonstrates this production team's knack for true professionalism. The waves and ocean projected onto the stage was a character in of itself, adding additional depth to the story. However, as impressive as this projection effect was, through it's adding of layers and narration, there were specific instances where it was distracting, taking the attention from the performers themselves. These effects were not perfected, but overall they added flair to a polished performance theatre-goers will enjoy.
Now playing November 17th & 20th at The Long Center, The Austin Opera rendition of THE FLYING DUTCHMAN is a journey worth sailing. Presented in 3 acts with one 25 minute intermission, the surprise ending will shock and delight audience members who have made the journey to save THE FLYING DUTCHMAN.
Austin Opera presents: THE FLYING DUTCHMAN
MUSIC AND LIBRETTO BY: Richard Wagner
CONDUCTOR: Richard Buckley
STAGE DIRECTION BY: ERIC EINHORN
NOV. 12TH - 20TH
Show times at 7:30pm on Thursday Nov. 17th & 3:00pm on Saturday Nov. 20th
The Long Center
Photos by Eric Schlegal