A review on the Opening night

  • Translation of the german article in “Neuer Merker”

Around two years ago, Juliana Lim, president of the very young Richard Wagner Association (Singapore), and the society’s vice president, Ronald Ling, had a great idea. Theiradventurous idea was to stage “The Flying Dutchman” – the first Wagnerian opera in the history of Singapore. Once decided, it was undertaken in close collaboration with the local OperaViva Ltd. The Goethe-Institut Singapore has provided significant sponsorship to the project. The composer’s early work had its first performance in Singapore on Sunday, 23 October 2016. Juliana Lim and Ronald Ling took a very particular interest in realising the entire production based on national production talents. This was very well done. They were able to bring together an excellent and very young “creative team” for the project under the musical direction of Darrell Ang, who studied in St. Petersburg and Yale and won a number of important international awards.

The Singapore team purposely chose an Asian intercultural directing concept for its interpretation of “The Flying Dutchman”. Through the use of images, the choreography and the lighting design, the diverse and convincing ways a Wagnerian opera can be staged were once more demonstrated. The shadows of puppets cast on canvas in the background played a major dramaturgical role. They fulfill an important function in commenting on the story line. Thus, for example, the entire prehistory of the curse imposed by the Devil on the Dutchman is conveyed by the shadow puppets during the overture. The audience experienced the stormy sea in the form of these silhouettes.

This element brilliantly embraces Wagner’s idea of the “Gesamtkunstwerk” (total work of art) and can be described as an innovation of the Singaporean directing concept. The colourful and opulent costumes are derived from Asian cultures.

The use of lighting techniques supports the story line on stage in a very subtle and atmospheric manner, by using a high level of abstraction. The projection wall is utilised to show the shadows but also is illuminated by various light images. In spite of all the visual abstraction, the ghostly-looking ship of the Dutchman is moved manually on stage as required by the flow of the story. With this ship construct, the creative team addresses the myth of the ghosts. I must emphasise that, despite its Asian character, this interpretation of “The Flying Dutchman” conforms throughout with the essential intention and, in wider terms, the stage direction of Richard Wagner.

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Choir of the Spinnerinnen, copyright Ngiap Hend Tan

The four lead roles are cast with international singers. Two of them (The Dutchman and Senta) were prizewinners in the international singing competition conducted by Eva Wagner-Pasquier in Karlsruhe in 2012 and 2015. Mrs Eva WagnerPasquier was present at the premiere as an honorary guest as well as the president of the Richard Wagner-Verband International, Horst Eggers. Oleksandr Pushniak is well chosen as the Dutchman, Kathleen Parker a first-rate Senta, and the Bayreuth-experienced Andreas Hörl a great Daland, all with very good performing qualities. Jakub Pustina as Erik shows good dramaturgical qualities, but comes a bit short in the singing. The Singaporean tenor, Jonathan Tay, sings an excellent steersman, and Candice de Rozario as Mary can claim to be a good fit for the ensemble. The choirs are choreographed in a multi-faceted manner and sing with strong voices. The singing is in original language.

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The first encounter of the Dutchman with Senta. Copyright: Ngiap Heng Tan

Darrell Ang is the conductor of the Singapore International Festival of Music orchestra. He leads the orchestra with a lot of positive spirit and competence and addresses the singers very well. The orchestra is slightly reduced in size. This is in good acoustic harmony with the relatively small hall of the Victoria Theatre. There will be a total of five performances up to 30 October. On 27 October, there will be a performance with local singers exclusively. This will give them an opening to be cast for larger roles in the opera community.

A more detailed discussion will follow.

Story by Klaus Billand, translation: Isabel Markwitz, John Gee

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