Monday, October 24, 2016

RWAS's 'The Flying Dutchman' in Review - 23 Oct 2016


Wagner - der Fliegende Holländer
Venue: Victoria Theatre, Singapore
Date:23 October 2016
Time:6.30pm

Review by Alvin Koh

Richard Wagner Association (Singapore)'s The Flying Dutchman would have made Wagner himself proud if he were to be alive now.

Performed by a star-studded cast and a committed and vivacious chorus onstage and offstage, the production was most apt as the first Wagnerian opera to be produced and presented in Singapore, not only because the opera itself was pivotal in the change of winds (pun intended) in the operatic style during Wagner's time and in his career (distinguishing him from his predecessors and near-contemporaries), but that it was a most auspiciously grand and yet humble introduction to the world of a Wagnerian musical thread in the newly furnished Victoria Theatre, which has an operatic history, albeit not glorious yet.

The cast were amazing and Singapore has to be proud of one of her representatives in this cast, Mr. Jonathan Tay as Steersman. He sang with conviction and his acting was sincere. (We too look forward to seeing Miss Nancy Yuen, Mr. Kee Loi-Seng and Mr. Martin Ng with optimism this coming Thursday .)

Mr. Oleksandr Pushniak as the eponymous Flying Dutchman and Mr. Andreas Hőrl as Daland were consummate in their craft as they acted and sang with aplomb. Beautiful diction, sang with long legato lines which surely contradicted the erroneous perception of Wagnerian operatic singing as merely 'loud and louder' with less musicality than the popularly termed 'Bel Canto operatic style' by her exponents, Bellini and Rossini. Instead, artistic sensitivity and sensibility was clearly seen in Mr. Pushniak's stellar performance of one of the very demanding baritone roles in opera.

I could not help but made the inference that Daland's black and white coloured costume, reminiscent of a certain clown persona, said something about his comical and seemingly cardboard character (which only showed development in the end.)

Miss Kathleen Parker had to be the great highlight of the evening with not only her great colourful and expansive singing but also her fine acting, which reminded me of a Michael Chelkov and Grotowski quality. She used her voice with economy, reserving the 'money notes' and the highly expected Wagnerian luxurious fortissimo vocal colours to the most appropriate moments needed to convey the intended message, no more and no less. It was and is indeed rare to hear a young Wagnerian soprano, the heaviest of the western operatic female fach, live in Singapore. Rarer to experience her as a thespian in a complete grand operatic art form.

The impactfully simple, yet never simplistic visuals, costumes and props formed one of the highlights which supported the cast and chorus brilliantly. The creative ubiquitous use of the South East Asian traditional Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppetry) in the opera and especially in the overture was captivating and enhanced the mime and gestures of the characters Senta and Mary. Traditional and contemporary motifs, often stylised and seen in the costumes, setting, frozen uniformed hand gestures at the finale, psychological gestures and props were used tastefully in the opera. Eclecticism was achieved without seams.

One can go on writing about The Flying Dutchman but it seems pointless here to continue, not because it gives away too much of the game but that at some point, words fail! One simply has to experience the opera oneself.

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RWAS's The Flying Dutchman performs on 25, 28, 30 October, local cast performing on 27 October (Thursday). Checkout the Events Page for more information! 

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