Opera Scotland

Fliegende Holländer 2013Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Flying Dutchman

This was the only Wagner production to have been mounted by the company under the leadership of Alex Reedijk and Francesco Corti. To celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Wagner it would have been ideal if Scottish Opera had tackled one of the works they have not yet mounted, such as Tannhäuser or Lohengrin, neither of which has been staged professionally in Scotland in decades. However even The Flying Dutchman had not been seen recently, apart from one Edinburgh Festival concert performance. The last Scottish Opera staging celebrated the company's first twenty-five years of existence, so another, very different, take on the piece was an appropriate way to mark fifty years.

The Dutchman is the Wagner opera most closely connected to Scotland, and the composer only relocated it to Norway at a fairly late stage of preparation. For Scottish Opera to introduce a Scottish version was entirely appropriate, with Daland and Erik now called Donald and George respectively (as originally intended). In 1987 the single act version was performed. This time we had the original structure - overture and three distinct acts, though the only interval came before the last act, which is not long, but contains a lot of action.

Harry Fehr's work with the company had previously been with smaller-scale pieces - Handel, Cimarosa and Rossini, as well as Craig Armstrong's Lady from the Sea - all thoroughly enjoyable. For his first attempt at directing Wagner, Fehr's stated intention was to remove, as much as possible, the accumulated baggage of symbolism attached to Wagner's music drama. This new setting, a seaport in the early days of the North Sea oil boom (Peterhead in the 1970s) worked well. The second act had an appropriate village hall feel to it - strands of bunting to welcome the sailors home, complete with brown metal and canvas stacking chairs, a reminder that the seventies was not an era to be proud of, fashion-wise.

Francesco Corti crowned his excellent work on Werther with an appropriately dramatic performance from orchestra and rousing massed singing from the chorus. Indeed one of the highlights of the entire enterprise was the expert marshalling of the big choir assembled and who seemed thoroughly immersed in the drama.

The cast performed consistently at a very high standard. Daland and Erik (Donald and George) both presented effectively. In many productions they tend to appear static characters, but here they were fully three-dimensional. Whether 'George, a minister' should have brandished his shotgun as freely as might 'Erik, a huntsman' is debatable, but it allowed him to dispatch the Dutchman convincingly, after Senta's suicide. Sarah Pring depicted Mary as a thoroughly involved character, always watching and listening, more and more appalled as she observed her former charge going increasingly off the rails. Nicky Spence made much of his character too, not just leader of the chorus, but a part of this red-blooded community

Peteris Eglitis, an American-born Latvian, last sang here in the Canadian Oedipus Rex at the 2002 Festival. Since then he has performed most of the Wagner heldenbariton roles, and clearly has no difficulty with the range required for his first Dutchman, even if his voice is still more baritone than helden. At the fifth performance he sounded a bit tired, but still pulled out the stops when required. Rachel Nicholls was a young and promising lyric soprano when she spent some time with Scottish Opera - the voice has now grown into heavier territory (she has already sung Brünnhilde at Longborough), and Senta poses no problems for her. Indeed her performance was something of a revelation, riveting in the ballad and the finale, completely self-contained and intimate in the duet. Her acting of a girl always a bit of an outsider worked superbly.

A weakness occurred with with the handling of the offstage chorus in the last act. This may have varied in different parts of the theatre on different nights, but the projection, always difficult to balance, here sounded woolly and indistinct.


Performance Cast

Daland a Norwegian sea captain

Scott Wilde


Nicky Spence


Peteris Eglitis

Mary Daland's housekeeper, once Senta's nurse

Sarah Pring

Senta Daland's daughter

Rachel Nicholls

Erik a huntsman

Jeff Gwaltney

Performance DatesFliegende Holländer 2013

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

4 Apr, 19.15 6 Apr, 19.15 9 Apr, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

13 Apr, 19.15 16 Apr, 19.15 19 Apr, 19.15

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