Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"The Flying Dutchman" (subtitle suggestion: "Not the best, but technically an opera!")

Kansas City is fortunate enough to have a wonderful arts center and an opera company, as I have discussed in the past. I have enjoyed almost every production they have put on. UNTIL NOW.

The opera playing currently is Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman." I have many thoughts about this production. The nicest things I can say are: It was very German. Everyone sounded very good. It certainly was an opera.

This is similar to my mother's review of the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which went "Well, the background music wasn't too loud, there wasn't any bad language, and Keanu Reeves looked nice in his suit."

All of these things are true.

This is not a criticism of the performers. Everyone was in good voice, and the acting was fine. This was a failure of direction and staging. It's also, frankly, a failure inherent in the opera. The story is weak, and at times laughable. It's a flimsy foundation.

If you're not familiar with the story, a dude declared that he'd sail around a cape if it took forever, the devil heard him and cursed him to sail the seas forever, every seven years he goes on land to try to find a faithful wife who will love him unto death, he meets a sea captain with a daughter who has been obsessed with his legend and his portrait, he marries her, he thinks she's been unfaithful but she hasn't, she vows to be faithful unto death, and then...it ends! It just ends. It should be so dramatic and interesting, but it's just not. It reminded me of nothing so much as this "Cul de Sac."

None of the performers seemed to connect to any of the other performers, and this disconnect seemed deliberate. There were moments that were clearly meant to be mysterious or moving, but instead were unintentionally hilarious. If the Dutchman is going to appear and disappear from dark doorways, it doesn't add to the drama when I can see him running from one doorway to another like someone in "Hee Haw." When a ghost chorus appears, and living sailors drop to the floor and raise their hands dramatically, it shouldn't bring to mind a badly done Lady Gaga video. When Senta declares her faithfulness at the end, the Dutchman, who has JUST SAILED AWAY suddenly appears next to her, takes her hand, and then a giant picture frame is lowered so that they are now in a "portrait," and all the actresses portraying Senta at various ages appear in front of the "picture" and turn creepily toward the audience. AND THAT IS IT. That is the end of the opera. I still have no idea what happened. I guess it worked out for them? The people behind me were pretty sure that Senta should have stuck with her non-cursed hunter boyfriend. I agree with them.

It was entertaining, but certainly not in any of the ways it was supposed to be. This was a rare misstep for the Lyric Opera, and I look forward to seeing their production of "The Mikado" in the spring.

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