A choral opera of the scale of Der Fliegende Holländer is not something to be undertaken lightly.
But as director Matthew Wild says, “It’s an absolute showcase for the magnificent Cape Town Opera chorus.” Yes, it is a big opera, he laughs, “And we’re going to do a big production to match.” Something that Cape Town audiences will be thrilled to hear.
With the huge successes of everything from The Rocky Horror Show to Salome to West Side Story under his belt, South African audiences are champing at the bit to see the next offering from this young director. Wild’s productions, we are learning, are slick and confident and anything but tame.
So what does Wild’s Der Fliegende Holländer have in store for us?
The legend of The Flying Dutchman is said to have started in 1641 when a Dutch ship sank near the Cape of Good Hope. The superstition lasted well into the 20th century, with the ghost ship apparently being sighted off the South African coast as late as 1924. But Wagner’s story is set in the gothic-obsessed 19th century, when ghosts were pin-ups worthy of Elvis-style adulation.
In Wagner’s story, a somewhat rebellious young woman named Senta is already half in love with the myth of the Dutch captain who, due to his blasphemy, has been cursed to roam the sea forever without rest. She also knows that every seven years he is cast ashore for a short time; if he can find a wife who will be true to him he will be released from his curse. Senta’s father happens to be a ship’s captain, and guess who daddy brings home to dinner…
For those of us who regard Wagner with some trepidation it may be worthwhile listening to a couple of highlights beforehand, particularly the iconic overture. In fact Der Fliegende Holländer is one of Wagner’s more accessible works. Compelling and succinct, it is Wagner’s first indisputable masterwork and contains some of his most irresistibly gripping and memorable music.
Acclaimed South African-born soprano Johanni van Oostrum sings the role of Senta, offering South African audiences a rare opportunity to hear her in her country of birth. Another South African, baritone Jaco Venter, returns from Wagnerian triumphs in Germany to make his debut as the Dutchman.
The rest of the powerhouse cast includes Australian tenor Samuel Sakker, American bass Gregory Frank, and regular Cape Town favourites Lukhanyo Moyake, Violina Anguelov and Nonhlanhla Yende. A 52 member-strong Cape Town Opera chorus completes the cast.
Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra plays Wagner’s elemental score under the baton of Cape Town Opera’s London-based Associate Music Director, Tim Murray, while renowned designer Michael Mitchell has created an atmospheric set that evokes stormy seas and turbulent emotions.
Still in doubt? Take a cue from leading cast member Gregory Frank who says, “The chorus scenes alone are worth the price of the ticket.” As Wild states, “It promises to be a night that is absolutely unforgettable.”
Date & Time: Thurs 17 Aug at 7.30pm | Sat 19 Aug at 6pm | Wed 23 Aug at 7.30pm | Sat 26 Aug at 6pm
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes, including 20 minute interval
Venue: Artscape Opera House
Cost: R100 to R400