The Flying Dutchman

Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Bryn Terfel has not been heard at Welsh National Opera for a decade, since his performance as Nick Shadow in the company's 1996 The Rake's Progress. Here, his Flying Dutchman doesn't disappoint but one singer, even one as great as Terfel, can't a Wagner night make, and the strengths and weaknesses of this new production are more various than one might expect.

David Pountney's staging, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, is an infuriating mix of subtle perceptions and postmodern junk, with a musical core that somehow survives the visual onslaught. Sliding screens are configured as a ship's prow to create a labyrinth through which the Dutchman, Senta and Daland circulate in their quest for moral and emotional contact. There's no suggestion of sea or wind. Instead, Hopkins projects an interminable, distracting montage of often indistinct visual prompts - navigational equipment, repro antiques, phones - and close-ups of Terfel and Annalena Persson, as Senta, in various states of hope and despair. And there are the Eyes, challenging us to interpret while the music flies in one Ear and out the Other.

Pountney, however, is too much of a musician to ignore Wagner for long, and he respects his singers. He knows when to give space, how to integrate movement with emotional density, how to absorb stylistic inconsistencies. He handles the ghastly Erik (Ian Storey), that refugee from early Romantic opera, with tact. By insisting on Senta's affection for him, he makes sense both of her Dutchman obsession and of the Dutchman's distrust of her motives. It's only a pity that Storey sings and acts so one-dimensionally.

Pountney is also excellent in the Daland-Dutchman scenes, in the way, for instance, the Dutchman turns his back on Daland's (the admirable Gidon Saks) chatter. Such details perfectly reflect the vacillations of the music, and it's Pountney's innate feel for these issues of texture and style that give his staging its real, possibly lasting, sinew.

Through all this, Terfel sings incomparably, and Persson, less reliable in timbre, is still a moving Senta. Peter Wedd is an ardent Steersman, and the chorus are their sparkling selves, despite the usual ordeal by costume. Carlo Rizzi binds it all into a coherent arch of full-blown Wagner: no mean feat in the circumstances.

25 February, 1 & 3 March (0870 040 2000), then touring; see www.wno.org.uk

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones