MIDDLE CLASS PROBLEM ALERT; I find it genuinely impossible not to nod off during the first 20 minutes of any given opera. I had the damn head jerks last night at the start of Tim Albery’s production of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. They passed as they always do, only to be replaced by fears about the fact that the performance was 2hrs20 with no interval and I would have to face a sea of blue rinsed tutting by trying to get out and pee at some point. With the sort of Herculean effort that they write operas about, I managed to quash this neurosis and sit back and enjoy.
We were pretty far back up in the amphitheatre seats, luckily my ma had the presence of mind to bring along what I think were a pair of bird watching binoculars – they were so strong you could practically see through the curtain to the stage manager picking his nose but they were mainly used for the purpose of perving on the chorus and orchestra – not much going on there but I did spot an oboist who looked like Piers Morgan.
What of the actual bloody opera though? Well, the Dutchman is a sea captain cursed by Satan to sail the seas with a crew of ghosts (so far, so like a non-shit version of Pirates of the Caribbean) until a woman promises to be forever faithful to him. The Dutchman, played by a pleasingly handsome Egils Silins is promised Senta the daughter of Daland, another ship’s captain. It all goes horribly wrong as things tend to in operas and in betrothals between young women and ghosts. The music is good, stirring Wagner stuff and has wonderful foreboding audio clues to the approach of the Dutchman. Senta played by Anja Kampe had a couple of soaring arias which sent tremendous shudders down the collective spines of the auditorium (but nothing touching on the Liebestode - which never fails to make me feel feelings intensely). The ghostly and corporal choruses were both fantastic but it was Kampe’s voice that stood out. The most impressive part of the production though was Michael Levine's set, and I'm afraid I can't face dredging up drama GCSE mad skills to describe it to you but trust me, it perfectly complimented the production.
All in all it was wonderful night. What it lacked in handsome, topless chorus men and interval wine, it made up for in restrained dramatics and an air of having got it spot on.