BWW Review: Wagner's HOLLANDER Flies Under Nezet-Seguin, with Volle and Wagner, at the Met
The audience was there to be thrilled on Tuesday, when the Met's new Music Director, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, took on Wagner's early masterwork, DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER (THE FLYING DUTCHMAN)--his first opera by the composer in the house--and they weren't disappointed. It was a musically glorious performance that flew by (no mean trick at almost 2 ½ hours without intermission). The Met orchestra was in peak form under its new maestro, the company's great chorus was both charming and energetic, and the cast of principals was marvelous, led by baritone Michael Volle in the title role and soprano Amber Wagner as Senta.
This tale of a mysterious sea captain, cursed to sail the seas unless he can find a woman's faithful love, may be Wagner's most accessible tale, unwinding in a continuous stream of music that is tense but never overwrought. In the conductor's thoughtful performance, this meant that even when the curtain fell for a scene change after Acts I and II, the music kept flowing, naturally, leaving no chance for the audience to grow restless and distracted. (The Met's audience is known for both during pauses without music.)
Volle, in his black coat and icy demeanor, was enough to drive fear into the heart of anyone--except those who came for powerful singing. From his introductory monologue all the way through to his departure, letting Senta off the hook, though he (wrongly) thought her less than true to him, the baritone sounded dark, rich and thrilling. His character may have been cursed to sail the seas, but Volle was blessed with a voice that makes glorious music.
Senta is no Valkyrie but simply a sea-captain's daughter who has a yen for the mythological Dutchman, and Wagner (the singer), kept the reins on her substantial voice until it was called for. She's been at the Met for a while, but they seem to have been waiting for just the right role to showcase her talents. They found it in Senta. She took a bit to warm up, but when she did, there was no stopping her, bursting forth with a huge sound the color of her name: amber. Her aria, giving her own take on the Dutchman's story, was rich and quite moving. And she was game for her suicidal leap at the opera's end, to prove her love even after the Dutchman departs without her.
The opera has a pair of tenor roles--neither of them heroic in nature but both sung beautifully by a pair of young singers. In his Met debut, AJ Glueckert was Erik, who was determined to have Senta for himself, but was no match for her dream of being wife to the Dutchman. (After all, he's only a hunter, not a seaman.) Rich and robust of voice, he is a fine artist and one to watch. Ben Bliss--last heard here as Mozart's Belmonte--was a charming presence as the Steersman, sweet-voiced and fresh sounding, yet with more than enough sound to keep ahead of the crew.
The last of the principals was bass Franz-Josef Selig, quite believable but somewhat too rough-voiced as Senta's father, Daland, willing to send her off to be the Dutchman's wife for the right price (a treasure chest). Met veteran mezzo Dolora Zajick was Mary, Senta's nurse, a key player in Act II, with its memorable spinning chorus from the town's-women.
While wonderful singing is the ballast that keeps the opera--any opera--afloat, on this evening, the Met audience had other priorities on its mind. It had come to anoint a star: Nezet-Seguin. And he lived up to moniker, though we'll have to wait until 2020 for him to more than wet our whistle.
Additional performances of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER will be on April 29mat; May 4, 8 and 12. Running time: 2 hours and 21 minutes, no intermission. Curtain times vary: complete schedule here.
Tickets begin at $25; for prices, more information, or to place an order, please call (212) 362-6000 or visit www.metopera.org. Special rates for groups of 10 or more are available by calling (212) 341-5410 or visiting www.metopera.org/groups.
Same-day $25 rush tickets for all performances are available on a first-come, first-served basis on the Met's website. Tickets will go on sale for performances Monday-Friday at noon, matinees four hours before curtain, and Saturday evenings at 2pm. For more information on rush tickets, click here.