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Review: IO presents The Flying Dutchman

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Jane Dutton (Senta) and Kevin Short (Dutchman) - DENNIS RYAN KELLY JR.
  • Dennis Ryan Kelly Jr.
  • Jane Dutton (Senta) and Kevin Short (Dutchman)

It was in 1998 that Indianapolis Opera gave its first-ever production of a Wagner opera, The Flying Dutchman, which also happens to be his shortest. And that is precisely why IO's second Wagner production on Friday remained The Flying Dutchman. At two hours and 50 minutes, it falls neatly into IO's three-hour niche for repertoire standards, while none of the remaining dramatic masterpieces of the inscrutable Richard Wagner come close.

Yes, we might consider Das Rheingold as a three-hour opera, but, for the composer, it serves as a prologue to his monumental Ring trilogy, each one of which lasts five to six hours. (IO and the ISO presented Rheingold as a collaborative, partially staged effort in 2009, closing IO's 2008-'09 season.)

Stage director Joachim Schamberger wins the accolades in this production. He created and produced the video sets which exceeded his similar work in last season's Faust. In place of projecting his video onto scrims of various sizes and distances from the stage front -- as in Faust, Schamberger employed translucent "curtains" which captured the video while we could see the live cast members backlit through the curtain--a novel visual effect.

Daland's ship appeared first as a solid set, with "real" steps in front of it while the Dutchman's ghost ship was video projected, first on a roiling, stormy sea. When the "storm" passed, the sea became placid and calm. Other video projections were of the inside and outside of Daland's house, the town's port and a cliffside at the end, off which Senta jumps to her her death -- to redeem the Dutchman for her faithful love of him.

Bass-baritone Kevin Short returned to IO to sing the title role of the Dutchman as well as generally leading the principals in his vocals. Kristopher Irmiter, another bass-baritone, sang Daland, a Norwegian sea captain, who meets the Dutchman following the storm. When the Dutchman shows Daland, within a duet, that his ship is filled with treasure from the seven seas, Daland "magnanimously" offers his daughter Senta's hand in marriage in exchange for the Dutchman's treasure. The Dutchman agrees. Though Short's powerful voice dominated Irmiter's in their extended duet, Irmiter's voice projected well when heard separately.

Soprano Jane Dutton appeared as Senta, who turns out to be more than willing to allow her hand (and presumably the rest of her) to be given in marriage to the Dutchman. A strong vocalist herself, Dutton occasionally projected a somewhat overripe vibrato, notably in "Senta's Ballad." Elizabeth Batton, singing the role of Senta's nurse, Mary, showed a similar tendency. Garrett Sorenson, with an excellent tenor voice, sang the role of Erik, Senta's previous suitor.

Erik tries to talk Senta out of marrying someone she just met. But Senta's mind is made up though she feels sorry for Erik. The Dutchman misinterprets this as her showing continuing affection for Erik, and the Dutchman, completely distraught, sails away. After jumping off the cliff, Senta is shown united with the Dutchman, upstage and elevated, another outstanding Schamberger visual effect to conclude the opera.

The women's chorus did especially good work throughout, most notably in the "Spinning Song" beginning Act 2. IO artistic director James Caraher conducted the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra with a few more slips than usual. During Wagner's extended Overture, we saw a strongly abbreviated enactment of the entire Dutchman story from behind the gauze curtain -- another effective Schamberger touch. Perhaps with more emphasis than IO's conventional productions, this was an opera to see. May 10 and 12; Clowes Memorial Hall

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