Hot on Halloween’s tail, the Connecticut Lyric Opera presented two back-to-back performances of Wagner’s spooky “Flying Dutchman” on Nov. 1 and 2 at New Britain’s Trinity-on-Main and Middletown High School’s Performing Arts Center, respectively. This was this company’s first foray into Wagner and the opening of its 11th season. The performance was in conjunction, of course, with the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, which expanded its roster of musicians to accommodate the composer’s grandiose score, written when Wagner was only 30 (2013 is the bicentennial of his birthday.) It was last seen in Connecticut (by another, now defunct opera company) back in 1976, so its appearance last weekend made news.
The eerie legend of the Flying Dutchman condemned to wandering the open seas inspired Wagner to compose what is often considered his “transitional” opera — and, for someone going to one of his works for the first time, this opera is probably the best choice. First of all, it isn’t the four to six hour marathon that are most — it is, comparatively speaking, a “brief” one — even the tenor role of Erik (well sung by the dark baritonal tenor of Daniel Juarez) is very intense, but short and sweet. Secondly, it is here that he introduces his usage of leitmotivs (musical themes representing characters, emotions, etc). Last but not least, there are only four major players, not a stage full of endless Rhinemaidens and warrior women, et cetera.
As Wagner heroines go, Senta is somewhere between the heroic power sing that is Isolde and the lightweight lyricism that is Eva in “Meistersinger”, and is probably the only role with a high enough tessitura that definitely makes it not a part that can be shared with mezzos.
CLO’s resident diva Jurate Svedaite, essentially a lyric voice, surprisingly mustered up the power to soar gloriously through those high Bs with no apparent effort, well supported by a nurturing maestro, Adrian Sylveen, who knows exactly when to let the forces rip and when not to swamp his singers. The object of her obsessive fascination , the Dutchman, was Steve Fredericks. His tall imposing presence and black lava voice commanded the stage whenever on it. Bass Nathan Resika who, like Fredericks, was last seen here in “Don Giovanni” in May, rounded out the small cast admirably as Senta’s father Daland . Sylveen proved that his orchestra, ideal in Mozart and Puccini, is now ready for the lofty German wing as well.
The phantom galleon sets sail again before Thanksgiving, so opera lovers should catch performances of the “Dutchman” at either Waterbury’s Palace Theater on Friday, Nov. 15, or at New London’s Garde Arts Center on Saturday, Nov. 23. For tickets or more information go to ctlyricopera.org or thevirtuosi.org.