Review: ‘The Flying Dutchman’

During the overture an old man chases an elusive park bench, epitomizing, one would guess, the Dutchman's quest for an elusive pure-of-heart sweetie.

During the overture an old man chases an elusive park bench, epitomizing, one would guess, the Dutchman’s quest for an elusive pure-of-heart sweetie.

A child fashions dolls and ship models that mirror elements in George Tzypin’s massive set. Dress dummies do a ballet to Daniel Ezralow’s jolly choreography during the “Spinning Chorus,” possibly mirroring the music’s need for all the visual help it can get.

Assuredly, there is space within the barren stretches of the “Dutchman” for some extraneous stage shenanigans, and some of Taymor’s inventions fill the gaps nicely: flying ghostly figures, a neat dance for the Dutchman’s spooky crew.

Since the musical performance is not exactly deluxe, some of the diversions help to pass the time. Franz Grundheber, as the sea dog of the title, sang on opening night with as much bark as bite.

Ealynn Voss floated some beautiful tones during the agonizingly long “Senta’s Ballad,” but seemed to tire toward the end. Only Louis Lebherz’s gruff, hearty Daland completely honored the music’s demands, but those demands — in what has to be one of the most boring roles in all opera — are slim.

Tzypin’s set pieces, a tricky, break-apart ship skeleton that serves both as Daland’s vessel and his cottage, and a dilapidated canoe for the Dutchman’s ship , tend on occasion to overpower the action; they also necessitated an intermission to accommodate set changes, violating Wagner’s demand for a nonstop perf.

Israeli conductor Asher Fisch, still denied the right to conduct Wagner in his homeland, did so here with acceptable competence but little more.

The Flying Dutchman

(Dorothy Chandler Pavilion; 3,201 seats; $ 117 top)

Production

The Los Angeles Music Center Opera presents Richard Wagner's three-act music drama. Conductor, Asher Fisch, with the L. A. Opera Orchestra & Chorus; director, Julie Taymor; sets, George Tzypin; costumes, Constance Hoffman; lighting, Paul Pyant; choreographer, Daniel Ezralow. Running time: 2 hours, 20 min. Reviewed Sept. 9, 1995; runs through Sept. 27. #Cast: Franz Grundheber (The Dutchman), Ealynn Voss (Senta), Frederic Kalt (Erik), Louis Lebherz (Daland), with Greg Fedderly, Suzanna Guzman. To the claims of deprivation from the ranks of ardent Wagnerians , the Music Center Opera has thrown a small bone, its first attention to the mighty music dramas of the Lord of Bayreuth since the "Tristan und Isolde" of 1987. Shortest and goofiest score in the Wagner canon, with its hints of later mastery mingled with a leaning toward cute folksiness that the composer would soon outgrow, "The Flying Dutchman" soars onto the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage with a comparable blend: an adequate if not thrilling musical performance mingled with some stage business that sometimes enhances the action but just as often strays into other realms. American director Julie Taymor, best known for her Emmy-winning Kabuki-style staging of Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex," has devised a symbolic overlay almost as complex as Wagner's own scenario.
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