Wagner’s Flying Dutchman unleashes the imagination in Seattle

Wagner’s Flying Dutchman unleashes the imagination in Seattle
Wagner’s Flying Dutchman unleashes the imagination in Seattle

Before Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean films sailed the seven seas, Wagner’s operatic tale of a cursed pirate had been thrilling audiences for almost 200 years. Seattleites will soon get to experience this masterpiece for themselves in May 2016, as Seattle Opera presents The Flying Dutchman.

Dutchman truly has something for everybody,” said General Director Aidan Lang. “With stirring choruses and orchestral writing, it’s the ideal entry point for the first-time Wagnerian. For those more familiar with Wagner’s operas, this piece offers tantalizing glimpses of his mature musical style, and the deeper idea that permeates most of his later works—finding redemption through love.”

In this story, a ghostly sailor condemned to wander for all eternity sets foot on land every seven years to search for a bride who can bring him peace. In a small fishing village he encounters Senta, a young woman obsessed with his legend. Should the Dutchman dare to hope that true love can break the curse and end his suffering?

More than 125 artists, including principals, Seattle Opera Chorus, and Seattle Symphony Orchestra, perform in this movie-length production, presented without intermission. When previously presented in Portland, this new-to-Seattle show was praised by The Oregonian, who wrote: “[Stage director Christopher Alden and Wagner] are in many respects, kindred spirits—provocative, divisive, and dismissive of tradition.” Alden has created an abstracted version of this Wagner masterpiece which draws its inspiration from art and social trends of the 1920s. Coupled with Wagner’s sweeping orchestrations under the baton of Maestro Sebastian Lang-Lessing (2014 International Wagner Competition and Speight Celebration), Dutchman will evoke the power of the sea and the dark recesses of humanity.

Sharing the title character are two singers who’ve made big impressions on Seattle audiences in the past: Greer Grimsley, Wotan from Seattle Opera’s Ring cycle and the villain Scarpia from Tosca, as well as Alfred Walker, who earned praise for his portrayal of The Villains in The Tales of Hoffmann (2014)In the role of Senta, the young woman who obsessively loves the doomed pirate, are Australian soprano Rebecca Nash in her Seattle Opera debut, and Wendy Bryn Harmer, who returns to McCaw Hall following the 2013 Ring. 

Erik, Senta’s fiancé, will be performed by both Austrian tenor Nikolai Schukoff, and Danish tenor David Danholt, winner of a first prize at the 2014 Seattle Opera International Wagner Competition. Two other singers from Seattle Opera’s world-famous Ring return for all performances of Dutchman. They include Luretta Bybee as Mary, an older lady who now regrets filling Senta’s head with ghost stories, and Daniel Sumegi as Daland, Senta’s father. Colin Ainsworth makes his company debut as the Steersman.

The Flying Dutchman premieres Saturday, May 7, and runs through Saturday, May 21. Tickets are available online at seattleopera.orgor by calling 206.389.7676 or 800.426.1619. Tickets may also be purchased at the box office by visiting 1020 John Street (two blocks west of Fairview), Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ticket prices start at $25. Groups save 15 percent: 206.676.5588 or groups@seattleopera.org. Seattle Opera Ticket Office: 206.389.7676/800.426.1619. Online orders: seattleopera.org.

In April, Seattle Opera offers free public-preview talks on The Flying Dutchman at libraries throughout the Puget Sound. For a full list, go to seattleopera.org/calendar