Opera North’s Semi-Staged Dutchman

Opera North has had great success with its semi-staged instalments of the Ring – to be performed in its entirety next season – and it was understandable that they should wish to explore other Wagnerian works with the same approach. Der fliegende Holländer presents a much more limited challenge, with its simpler libretto and more accessible musical idiom. But, as the performance in the Leeds Town Hall revealed, there was no shirking in the preparation and presentation of the piece. The orchestra was at its very best and Richard Farnes was able to bring out not only the grandeur and passion in the score but also its less obvious and intriguing details. Even more impressive were the chorus, particularly the men who had to characterise differently the rollicking tunes of the Norwegian crew and the haunted outbursts of their Dutch equivalents: they did so with sharpness of attack and brilliant tonal quality. Béla Perencz has exactly the right voice for the title role and with his powerful upper register communicated inner anguish but also, when necessary, pathos. Alwyn Mellor as Senta, though not always convincing dramatically, exerted her expressive soprano to good effect, and there were notable supporting contributions from Mati Turi, Ceri Williams and Mark Le Brocq. Disappointing was Mats Almgren bringing an insufficiently even and rounded tone to the bel canto requirements of Daland. The movements of the singers on the platform and the visual dimension, for which Peter Mumford was mainly responsible, were very successful. I am forever complaining about unnecessary and distracting video projections, but here the images elucidated the themes of the drama without exaggerating or distorting them.