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Joe Banno
The Classical Review, December 2011

WAGNER, R.: Fliegende Hollander (Der) (DNO, 2010) (NTSC) OA1049D
WAGNER, R.: Fliegende Hollander (Der) (DNO, 2010) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7084D

Judged purely on audio terms, Opus Arte’s new Blu-ray of Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer from Netherlands Opera would qualify as a serviceably sung, expressively theatrical reading delivered in handsome and immediate sound. The star of the show is conductor Hartmut Haenchen, who knows when to goose the score into high-dramatics (the timpani player certainly earns his fee throughout the performance), and when to ease up and let a moment drift into mystical reverie. He gets crisp work from the chorus…and draws committed singing from a cast that no one would confuse for a Golden Age ensemble, but who get the job done.

…getting to watch a fine group of singing-actors at work helps immeasurably in connecting us with the drama. Soprano Catherine Naglestad makes the deepest impression as a quietly intense, unambiguously middle-aged Senta, whose gutsy, mezzo-ish middle-voice gives way to occasionally edgy high notes, but who strikes a nice balance between dreaminess and full-on psychosis.

Designer Martin Zehetgruber has supplied a striking version of what has become the archetypal stage set for any deconstructionist director worth his salt—the cold, featureless corporate space—and Reinhard Traub has lit it in suitably soulless faux-florescence. It all looks terrific in Blu-ray, and video director Joost Honselaar has done a clever job… © 2011 The Classical Review Read complete review

William R. Braun
Opera News, December 2011

WAGNER, R.: Fliegende Hollander (Der) (DNO, 2010) (NTSC) OA1049D
WAGNER, R.: Fliegende Hollander (Der) (DNO, 2010) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7084D

Martin Kušej’s 2010 production from Amsterdam is the latest in a line of intelligent, sustained engagements with Wagner’s text.

This is an intensely musical performance, every note sung, with her [Catherine Naglestad] ballad thrilling because she doesn’t perform it as a set piece. Strong-willed—she sings the line “I don’t know what I’m doing” with bitter irony—she carries the show. © Opera News Read complete review

Karl Lozier
Positive Feedback Online, November 2011

the vocalists and orchestral performance as very good and solid with no single attribute standing out and that pretty much continues with the very good if not particularly outstanding audio quality that displays no faults. The audio is full range and high definition 5.0 DTS with clean and clear multichannel surround sound. © 2011 Positive Feedback Online Read complete review

Andrew Quint
Fanfare, September 2011

Bass Robert Lloyd, who sings Daland in this Netherlands Opera production of Der fliegende Holländer, allows that “traditional Wagnerians will find it quite challenging.” Probably, many will. The time is the present day, or close to it, and instead of a Norwegian commercial vessel heading for home in Scandinavia, Daland commands a luxury yacht cruising a warmer part of the world. The Dutchman’s crew may be outlaws, of the Somali pirate sort. The staging is provocative and hyper-dramatic, growing in extremity until an over-the-top conclusion: Erik, who has already slaughtered a few of the Dutchman’s crew, fires two rounds from his double-barreled shotgun to assure that Senta and the Dutchman are indeed united in death.

It’s extreme, all right: Wagner as verissmo, or at least as Verdi. Still, the essence of Wagner’s “Romantic Opera in three acts” has been preserved. The two protagonists recognize their profound isolation, differentness, and need for release—“redemption” in the case of the Dutchman and for Senta, tormented by a movie-queen Mary, escape from the intolerable circumstances of her daily existence. The excellent cast is fully committed to stage director Martin Kušej’s concept and delivers consistently musically satisfying performnaces. Lloyd represents Daland as a proto-Gunther kind of fop, rather than the bluff and unsophisticated sea captain we’ve come to expect. California-born Catherine Naglestad sings Senta with an intensity that manifests just how desparately she wants to escape her current life, surrounded by sneering, preening females. Juha Uusitalo, a commanding Wotan/Wanderer in the nonpareil Valencia Ring, shapes his longer speeches with a sure lyrical instinct. For the radically reimagined role of Erik, Marco Jentzsch creates a menacing presence with his assertive Heldentenor instrument. (Other Wagnerian roles of his include Lohengrin, Walther, and Froh.) Jentzsch’s recounting of Erik’s dream in the final act is pretty scary.

Hartmut Haenchen must be considered a leading contemporary Wagner interpreter, with two complete Ring cycles on disc with the Netherlands Opera—one on DVD, the other on SACD—and he leads a performance that presses ahead effectively. Incorporated are the pretty-much standard alterations the composer made to the score after the 1843 Dresden premiere up until 1860 Paris performances (when, for example, a Tristanesque harp was added at the very end). Haenchen is an enthusiastic advocate of Kušej’s “pioneering vision.” Richard Wagner, the conductor observes, “was hardly ever content with anything. It shows that we, as interpreters, have the right to go further, to get everything out of his masterpieces that we can.” The Netherland Philharmonic Orchestra’s playing is top-notch and the choral work unassailable. Opus Arte’s high-resolution sound is quite good, both the stereo and 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio options. Subtitles are offered in English, French, German, Spanish, and Dutch.

Gramophone, July 2011

This is a visually striking production of the Dutchman, recorded live last February and presented here on Blu-ray in 1080i video and a choice of PCM stereo and 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio. To match the complex, intriguing sets, which benefit greatly from the video quality on offer, the performances are beautifully captured, and the sound truly remarkable.

There’s both weight and slam, as well as great insight into the detail of the scoring and performance, ensuring the recording repays close attention.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2011

Taking place today, the bedraggled crew and passengers come into the harbour’s terminal building following a rough crossing in stormy conditions. That is the opening scene in this updated production of Wagner’s Der fliegende Hollander, directed by Martin Kusej. For the second act we are in a swimming baths scenario with a little topless female nudity to add spice. That Senta should still seen spinning wool so as to meet the story is one of those things Kusej cannot modernise, and there are many other points where action and story come adrift. But in today’s drive to up-date every opera ever written, he comes close to a credible alternative. It is at the very close when Erik, Santa’s intended husband, shoots both Senta and the Dutchman that he comes very much at odds with Wagner’s whole concept. Those familiar with the Wagner’s original will know that we should be on the rugged Norwegian coast where Daland’s boat has been blown off course, and having set anchor finds another boat doing much the same nearby. But his crew begin to realise that the other boat are ‘dead or like dragons’. It is the boat of The Flying Dutchman cursed to sail the seven seas for ever until he finds a woman true to him even unto death. That story had fascinated Senta, the daughter of the captain of the Norwegian boat. She is seen with her female friends spinning and they sing a song to complement the rhythm of the wheels. They tease her about her fascination with the story of the Dutchman whose painting is in the room. That man she recognises when her father brings home the captain from the boat docked near his. She falls in love with him, as she is destined to do, and when he eventually departs she leaps into the sea to relieve him of the curse. Vocally this performance, filmed in the Amsterdam Music Theatre early last year, is outstanding, the large frame of Juha Uusitalo to back-up a vocally resplendent voice looks and sounds exactly as I would imagine the Dutchman. Catherine Naglestad is in the line of great Wagnerian lyric sopranos able when called upon to add some robust sounds. Marco Jentzsch makes far more of Erik than we are used to, and Robert Lloyd is the dandy who captains the Norwegian boat. Spirited playing from the Netherlands Philharmonic with Hermut Haenchen on the rostrum, the film presentation seeks to be different. The disc also comes in standard DVD, OA1049D.

Jerry Floyd, June 2011

Strong singing and acting by most of its principals and a taut dramatic arc make this Netherlands Opera performance of Die fliegende Holländer one of the best releases in Opus Arte’s expanding Blu-ray/DVD catalogue of Wagner’s works.

Director Martin Kušej and set designer Martin Zehetgruber’s sleek, contemporary interpretation transcends a lot of pitfalls that mar many contemporary régie stagings.

And the two leads, bass-baritone Juha Uusitalo (the Dutchman) and soprano Catherine Naglestad (Senta), deliver career-defining performances in this Dutch production, filmed during two live performances in February 2010.

Uusitalo is a variable singer but he sings powerfully whilst communicating his character’s anxiety and yearning for redemption. When he mistakenly believes Senta has betrayed him, Uusitalo’s anguish is captured in camera close-ups.

Certainly Uusitalo is a more compelling Dutchman than he was in Wotan in Valencia’s recently released La Fura del Bas Ring cycle. The Nederlandse Opera’s white unit set provides a much more intimate setting for Uusitalo to develop his character.

Scintillating Senta

Naglestad is an appealing, intense Senta. She conveys the character’s fierce independence and yearning to escape her nouveau-riche environment. While Naglestad does not possess the blazing upper register of her forebear, Leonie Rysanek, Nagelstad’s kinetic stage presence evokes Rysanek’s scorching assumption of Senta decades ago.

Though she wears an almost funeral, floor-length black dress throughout the production, Naglestad’s character seems more a 21st-century liberated woman than a delusional, self-sacrificing romantic heroine.

Mary and the women chorus in Act II are clad in garish contemporary outfits and the bar-hopping clothes the festive party goers wear during Act III contrast with the somber outfits worn by Senta, the Dutchman and the Dutchman’s crew, which in this production are a group of hooded dark-skinned immigrants (and one of the production’s few miscalculations).

Tenor Marco Jentzsch (Erik) and mezzo-soprano Marina Prudenskaja (Mary) are much more vivid secondary characters than one usually experiences in performances of this opera. Jentzsch’s strong lower register may result in his being assigned more important Wagner roles in years to come.

A lighter tenor, Oliver Ringelhahn, is an appealing steersman-cum-lounge singer. However, bass Robert Lloyd (Daland) sounds vocally underpowered. Too many years have passed since Lloyd’s appearance as the youthful, noble Gurnemanz in Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s 1981 Parsifal film.

Veteran Netherlands Opera Hartmut Haenchen and the Netherlands Philharmonic craft a detailed, spirited reading of the score and the choristers, led by Martin Wright, busily move about the stage in this energetic staging. At times, the rushing to and fro seems very derivative of Patrice Chereau’s blocking in the 1976 Ring cycle.

Immigrant Status

Since the Netherlands and other European countries are wrestling with immigrant issues, Kušej may be trying to make a socially conscious statement by depicting the Dutchman’s crew as displaced immigrants. If so, the concept may have backfired. Does having the immigrants careen threateningly about the stage in Act II expose phobias some have towards immigrants from emerging nations? Or does it reinforce these phobias?

After one of the dead immigrants falls into the swimming pool, his blood reddens the water. A somewhat similar and equally gratuitous moment occurs when Alberich rips out a young swimmer’s heart in the the Danish Opera’s production of Das Rheingold and the aquarium water turns red.

Withal, the Nederlandse DVD’s sharply focused camera work, crisp editing, and vibrant sound are plusses, as is the high-quality resolution in the Blu-ray disk I viewed. Even more importantly, the performance’s musical values and strong acting make this Holländer one of the best Wagner releases in recent years.

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