|Der fliegende Holländer|
Studio recording in stereo
|Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi|
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
|Decca, 436 418-2
Review by Alan Peters|
This truly transitional work of Wagner's is always, one can't help but
think, of prime importance in his development as a musician. Wagner, at
this time, was hardly free of foreign influences in his compositional
thinking; "Die Feen," "Liebesverbot" and "Rienzi" are obvious proof.
In the "Holländer", Wagner finally begins to work free of his French
and Italian coils but is still, to some extent, trapped by convention.
This early work of his, after the revisions Wagner made in the overture
and the ending, still delight and move one; while he was decades from
the sheer beauty of the "Ring," and his later works, the "Holländer"
offers up some lovely music. Christoph von Dohnányi, who clearly has
moved to the front ranks of Wagnerian conductors, is largely responsible
for the success of this splendid recording. While the work is not the
unbroken symphonic thread which Wagner would realize in supreme fashion
in his later operas, the score is hauntingly beautiful in a somewhat
sinister way. Dohnányi conveys the scary intensity of the music in an
Beginning with the overture, which too often is run through as a concert
piece, the conductor applies a gloss and polish to the overture only
rarely heard. Dohnányi handles the difficulties in balance and emphasis
throughout this work with astonishing skill and understanding. The cast,
too, is magnificent. Robert Hale's only fault is that he fails (like
almost everyone else who attempts the role) to convey a touch of the
sinister; here, the Dutchman is more travel-weary than angry. Senta is
beautifully sung by Hildegard Behrens. Her scenes with the Dutchman are
particularly moving. The minor roles, Daland, Erik and the Steersman,
are well sung. The chorus also deserves a bow; this opera gives any
chorus master [or mistress] headaches enough, but here, from the
spinning chorus through the ghostly sailors' chorus, the result is
one of consummate beauty and drama.
Many opera-goers cannot buy into the legend of the Dutchman and his
redemption by a woman he's only just met. But for those of us who can
see the composer's intentions in this work, the emotional and musical
payoffs of listening to a recording of this unmatched excellence are
their own rewards.