In 1839 Richard Wagner and his wife tried to evade their creditors in Riga by sailing away and eventually planning to reach Paris. But it was a nightmare of a sea journey and included the tiny ship taking refuge in a Norwegian fjord.
Add to Wagner’s own experience is the folklore of the Flying Dutchman ever on the high seas but every seven years allowed to come ashore to find a bride. The Flying Dutchman, written between 1840 and 1842, was Wagner’s first operatic success after several failures.
Francesco Corti’s Orchestra of Scottish Opera had us at the edge of our seats in anticipation with the overture, with its very real scene setting, whilst the stage portrayed a stormy sea in slight motion. The final port of call was a speck in the far distance.
Harry Fehr’s new Scottish Opera production starts a few miles offshore Scotland, perhaps Peterhead, and so close to home but stuck - awaiting the seas to calm. Two ships moor alongside one another. Nicky Spence is the helmsman with a twinkle in his eye. The stage really does look like a harbourside with the ships behind in the swirling mists.
Conversation begins as the impressive Scott Wilde, as the ship’s captain, and the equally impressive Peteris Eglitis, the Dutchman, plot to have the fabled Dutchman with his alledged wealth marry the captain’s daughter. Jeff Gwaltney as George thought he had Senta as his bride to be. I thought Rachel Nicholls’ portrayal of Senta was formidable as she separated herself with her mysticism over a painting from the wives and lovers waiting on shore for the return of their men.
The chorus lines come from thirty seamen and twenty five wives and lovers. They join together in the third and final act where the dastardly acts bring us to the end.
I was gripped throughout and recommend the production. I had with me a friend in his thirties who had never been to an opera before. He simply loved every moment of it. Furthermore, I was only ever-so-slightly influenced knowing my Mother was brought up in Peterhead.
Performance reviewed: Saturday 13th April 2013 at 7.15pm.
Further performances on Tuesday 16th April at 7.15pm and Friday 19th April at 7.15pm.