If Hollywood ever kicks its current addiction to vampires, producers might look to another story of the undead wandering the earth for centuries in search of a love-victim: Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” about a sea captain whose barter with the devil has given him nothing but eternal grief. Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s production, borrowed from Lyric Opera of Chicago, begins with a spectacular entrance for its Dutchman (Tomas Tomasson) but veers off into high camp when dealing with the mere mortals around him.
The Dutchman’s ship of ghosts makes it to shore only once every seven years to find the true love who can redeem him, at this particular outing, Senta (Julie Makerov). At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Dutchman appears to have landed somewhere between “The Tales of Hoffmann” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Senta’s father, Daland (the vocally refined James Creswell), is decked out to look like one of the Wizard’s henchmen and Senta’s girlfriends all appear to be auditioning for the role of the doll Olympia in “Hoffmann.” Later, when they go off to confront the ghost ship, the men of the town wear black clown pants and top hats, which they doff to reveal a collective outbreak of alopecia. Who knew? They’re the real ghosts.
This is fey phantasmagoria, unfortunately, and not the raw viscera of Wagner’s drama.
Even the Dutchman’s entrance has its pop reference. Remember that huge “Metropolis”-inspired revolving fan and air duct from Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video? We first see the Dutchman as he walks through those slicing blades. But it’s an effective stage image, especially as framed by Raimund Bauer’s skeletal rib cage of a ship. Better yet, Tomasson is a magnificent Dutchman, one of those bass-baritones whose cavernous voice suggests the depths his character has traveled.
Makerov subbed on a moment’s notice for an indisposed Elisabete Matos. At full throttle, it’s an impressive voice, but in Senta’s softer passages the sound turns squally.
James Conlon conducts a tight ship, but floundered a bit when coping with a vocally distressed Corey Bix, who sings Erik, Senta’s other, more normal love interest in the story.
The Flying Dutchman
(Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles; 3000 seats; $270 top)
An LA Opera presentation of an opera in one act by Richard Wagner. Conducted by James Conlon. Production by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. Directed by Daniel Dooner. Sets, Raimund Bauer; costumes, Andrea Schmidt-Futterer; lighting, Duane Schuler; choreography, Denni Sayers. Opened and reviewed March 9, 2013. Running time: 2 HR, 20 MIN.
With: Tomas Tomasson, Julie Makerov, Corey Bix, James Creswell, Matthew Plenk, Ronnita Nicole Miller.