Photo: Tim Matheson

Vancouver Opera
The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner

When & Where April 29 and May 4 at 7:30pm. and May 7 at 2pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 630 Hamilton St., Vancouver

Dutchman Gregory Dahl Senta Marjorie Owens Erik Wookyung Kim Daland Richard Wiegold Steuermann Scott Rumble Mary Megan Latham

Conductor Leslie Dala Director Brian Deedrick Chorus DirectorTina Chang Costume Design Erik Teague Tattoo Design Roberta Doylend Set Design Craig Alfredson Projection Design Wlad Woyno Rodriguez Lighting Design Gerald King Stage Manager Theresa Tsang

In German with English surtitles

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson


Hold on to your hats.Vancouver Opera's production of The Flying Dutchman heaves with sweeping winds, deep-rolling seas and tempestuous emotions. Full on Wagner, in other words. Despite The Flying Dutchman being an early work, short enough to be conceived of as a one-act piece, and despite having a smaller orchestra than later operas, it contains Wagner's all-enveloping power and inescapable trajectory.

From the mysterious opening notes of the horns rising to the full orchestral storm, we know we are in good hands. The orchestra under Leslie Dala played with heart as well as skill against an abstract backdrop of constantly moving projections. Senta is seen in brooding silhouette.

This is just one of director Deedrick's innovations as Senta does not usually appear on stage until the second act and it gives her constancy and presence. His Chekhovian ending is another dramatically effective change.

The Z-shaped raked stage in contrast suggests both the unstable deck of a storm-bound ship and the volatile emotions of the other characters as well as providing, more prosaically, various acting levels for the cast. A ship's wheel, stage left, eerily turns by itself from time to time. Its shape presages the spinning wheels of the women in Act 2. Here Deedrick moves the village women into an industrial setting and casts Mary, usually Senta's nurse, as factory supervisor. Dramatic lighting by Gerald King highlighted the portentous meeting of Senta and the Dutchman, sometimes created a foreboding chiaroscuro and together with vivid projections by Wlad Woyno Rodriguez, shifted the fine men's chorus between human mariners and ghost ship's crew.

Marjorie Owen's intense performance as Senta matched Gregory Dahl's ravaged Dutchman with warmth and artistry. Dahl was terrifying as the Dutchman. In a swirling black coat (by costume designer Erik Teague), his bare chest and skull wildly tattooed (by Roberta Doylend), his was a mesmerizing performance torn between hope and despair. Richard Wiegold's Daland was vigorous in voice and character. Megan Latham somehow disposed of her natural warmth and humour to create a rather grim Mary. Wookyung Kim, blessed with a beautiful vibrant tenor brought youthful energy and passion to Erik, Senta's hapless suitor. Scott Rumble delivered the Steersman's lyrical love song with great charm but deserves an extra salute for recovering so smoothly after the orchestra lights suddenly went out on opening night.

It was a pleasure to see an unusual number of young people, some quite young, in the audience on opening night. I hope that such a thrilling night at the opera will keep them coming.


© 2023 Elizabeth Paterson