As English National Opera found out last week with Elizabeth Llewellyn in Figaro, emergency stand-ins can be brilliantly successful. And so it may be with Egils Silins, who will stand in for Falk Struckmann in the Royal Opera's Der Fliegende Holländer on Tuesday. This 50-year-old Latvian may be a newcomer to Covent Garden, but he's got the most magnificently resonant voice and presence, and has sung the role opposite Anja Kampe (here playing his saviour Senta) twice before. "She's the best Senta in the world," he says. "And the chemistry between us is perfect."
Having sung in 10 different productions of Wagner's work, he's now a connoisseur, and Tim Albery's Covent Garden version is in his view one of the best. "At least it's set in a ship," he says, "not in a bank or a fitness centre." He grimaces at the memory of a David Pountney show set it in a space ship. "If you listen to the overture, you hear the sea, not the cosmos. But we singers have to be a little bit prostitutes. Whatever we think about the show, we get the money, and we do it."
With all his success, he's become a sort of Flying Dutchman himself. I catch him in London between performances in St Petersburg (the day before) and Zurich (the day after). He has bases in Germany, Spain, and Latvia: "In the last 10 years, I've never spent more than three weeks at a time in any one place. And I like this life."
'Der Fliegende Holländer', Royal Opera House, London WC1 ( www.roh.org.uk), 18 October to 4 November