Monday, September 13, 2010

The Dutchman took off at Opéra Bastille

Der fliegende Holländer/The Flying Dutchman/Le vaisseau fantôme, Opéra Bastille, September 9 2010

Angel on the top of the Bastille obelisk seen from Opéra Bastille 

Peter Schneider ..... Conductor
Willy Decker ..... Stage Director

Matti Salminen ..... Daland
Adrianne Pieczonka ..... Senta
Klaus Florian Vogt ..... Erik
Marie-Ange Todorovitch ..... Mary
Bernard Richter .....  Steuermann
James Morris ..... Holländer

It was a really good night for Wagner at Opéra Bastille: the premiere of The Flying Dutchman. Wagner is always treated wonderfully at the Paris Opera. The troubles are the performances of works by Mozart, sometimes Verdi... but Wagner's operas are always given a particular care when produced in Paris. It comes almost like a paradox knowing how much Wagner hated it in Paris, and after all the horrid experience he lived at the Paris Opera.

Concerning the Willy Decker's production, I stay by what I wrote the other day after the final dress rehearsal. One extra good point I would like to add is the efficient staging of the final scene: not  because Senta stabs herself to death [instead of jumping into the sea], but because of the very good emphasis on ambiguity of her death: was she sacrificing her-romantic-dreamy-self to live the conventional life as she's supposed to, or she stays romantic to the end and commits suicide because she believes her life with no fantasy is not worth living ?!

Compared to the final dress rehearsal there was more play by the actors and altogether the Decker show works very well. I repeat it is not at the level of the Kusej's production, but it is a very good show and definitely worth the (high!) ticket price.

The night of the premiere will remain memorable because all the singers were very good. Klaus Florian Vogt and Adrianne Pieczonka were smashing and their performance made  this show particularly big. Bernard Richter -- who I prasied for his excellent Chevalier de la Force last spring in Munich -- was wonderful too, even if his role is quite short.  Matti Salminen has still that remarkable timbre and produces a broad recognizable sound that you don't get to hear very often these days. Vocally, he was a good match to Erik and Senta. James Morris gave his all and was singing with all cylinders steaming. In spite of occasional strains his Hollander was solid, dark, poetic, and ultimately convincing. 

The ONP chorus and orchestra were accurate, enthusiastic in performing, and that perceptible desire to do their best was a big part of the premiere's success. The packed house waited the last note to burst with a bunch of totally deserved bravos for the entire crew. Personally I was particularly impressed by the percussionists (too much or too little is a problem at Bastille -- this was just perfect).
Schneider is maybe not my fave conductor, but on the given night he was handling the job with serenity, authority, and with a pleasant dose of experience: he would let the orchestra show off the richness of wagnerian music and then, in just a few milliseconds, he would manage to completely tame the sound, making it sure the singers never get drowned by the orchestra. 

I also did take a few pics during the show. I'll post them here and this will be the last time I'm doing it. From now on, only CC pics folks. ;)

Morris & Salminen

Senta and Mary (you see the scene well here)

Erik and Senta in the white room

Hollander and Senta

Dutchman is about to leave

Singing treat: Adrianne Pieczonka and Klaus Florian Vogt

Bernard Richter and Matti Salminen

Marie Ange Todorovitch and Klaus Florian Vogt

Adrianne Pieczonka


  1. Interesting point about the ambiguity of the end. In the original version of the score as recorded by Klemperer or the last ROH production the opera ends with some perfunctory chords. Later Wagner replaced these with a redemptive post Tristan coda. I will be interested in hearing in October which version the Bastille plays, and is it in one act or three?

  2. Hey John!
    The ending does have a tristanian flavor. It's of course in 3 acts but there is no intermission. It is standard these days to perform The Dutchman in one go, isn't it!? I'm sure you'll enjoy the show. Hopefully you have a good seat (there are several acoustic patches at Bastille where you see everything but hear as if it was a music played at your net doors neighbor ;) ). Cheers