Tempest-tossed on the storm of life: Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer at Fulham Opera

Wagner declared in his 1851 pamphlet Communication to my Friends that “the Flying Dutchman… gives emotionally compelling expression to… the longing for peace from the storms of life.” And Daisy Evans takes this sense of exhausted, eternal displacement as her directoral cue: it is our sudden, imposed rootlessness which puts us all at sea with the Dutchman, lost in life’s disorientating whirlwind.

This production has been many months in the planning, but feels eerily timely. To be asked, in a peremptory fashion, to define yourself and the tragedy of your life inside the impersonal boxes of a paper form which no one may ever read, before being doled out a blanket and swiftly moved along, is an experience which many are truly living today. It fits the Dutchman, a man ironically defined both by his nationality and his inability to return to his homeland, perfectly. Keel Watson’s magnificent, powerful, bronze-toned Dutchman keeps on delivering a glorious cocktail of pathos, distrust, and vulnerability right to the end. Daland’s Steersman (an exceptional Tom Lowe) is a drug dealer, enjoying a few lines of MDMA during his exquisite “Mit Gewitter Und Sturm”, then opening a brown-paper brick of coke and a bag of pills for the party scene.

There’s no denying Evans’ dystopian vision of Der fliegende Holländer is a tough watch, and sometimes the sheer level of aggression on stage threatens to lose the sense of the work, but the singing is so fabulously good, it’s definitely worth sticking with this extraordinary production.

Click here to read my full review on Bachtrack.


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