Virginia Opera, “The Official Opera Company of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” will close the 2015-2016 opera season with a powerful production of the legendary story, “The Flying Dutchman.”
Written by Richard Wagner when he was just 26 years old, following an unsettling sea voyage complete with storms, raging seas and ghostly apparitions in the spray, the opera became an instant major success, and set the stage for what was to become an epic career for the composer. With a memorable score that opens with a tempestuous overture and includes a haunting all male chorus, “The Flying Dutchman” has quite literally become the stuff of legend and has been the inspiration for generations who look off into the horizon and imagine the doomed ship and her crew. From The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to the Twilight Series, a young woman’s fascination with an immortal or mythical man is a pervading theme in movies and literature. Sung in German, with English Supertitles, audiences will understand the paranormal themes that begin the show that ultimately turn to focus on the power of love to redeem even those in the most desperate of situations.
Director Sara Widzer takes the helm for her first mainstage production with Virginia Opera, under the guidance of Francesca Zambello, Artistic Director of Washington National Opera who originally created this production for Glimmerglass Opera, with the assistance of Ms. Widzer. A cast of stellar singers will breathe life into this timeless love story, featuring leading lady, soprano Christina Pier, whom audiences may recall from prior Virginia Opera productions (Ariadne auf Naxos, 2014), unleashing her “big, gleaming soprano” and making her debut in the Wagnerian repertoire as the young, lovelorn Senta. Conquering the role of The Dutchman is bass-baritone Wayne Tigges, lauded by the Chicago Sun-Times for his “rich, dark tone and beautiful legato,” he embodies the spirit and stature of The Dutchman. The two will make quite a compelling couple both vocally and dramatically on Virginia Opera stages.
Under the baton of Virginia Opera’s Principal Conductor, Adam Turner, in his Wagnerian debut, bringing his youthful energy and perspective to this piece that was itself the creation of a young man at the beginning of his career. He states “Having served as assistant conductor and pianist for many productions of Wagnerian repertoire in the recent past (from Seattle Opera’s “Ring Cycle” to Stadttheater Pforzheim’s “The Flying Dutchman”), it is immensely fulfilling to be given the opportunity to ascend the podium for these performances. With an incredibly gripping story and intensely dramatic music, Wagner has given us a true masterpiece, as relevant to today’s audiences as to 1843’s. Particularly exciting for these performances is the nearly 40-voice Virginia Opera Chorus supported by the fantastic Richmond Symphony Orchestra.”
Virginia Opera has been able to engage a cast of truly Wagnerian singers, including many who are reprising their roles from productions at other companies. Peter Volpe performed the role of Daland in the original performances of this production at The Glimmerglass Festival. Wayne Tigges, The Dutchman, and Corey Bix, Erik, also have prior direct performance experience in their respective roles at major opera houses in America and the world; specifically Tigges at Florentine Opera and Bix at LA Opera, to name only two.
Returning to Virginia Opera in the key role of The Steersman is former Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist David Blalock. Blalock most recently performed the role of Tobey in Virginia Opera’s production of Sweeney Todd, but should additionally be remembered for many prominent supporting roles in Ariadne auf Naxos, Carmen, and other Virginia Opera productions.
Maestro Turner continues “It’s exciting to have David return to Virginia Opera following his successful debuts with Santa Fe Opera, Madison Opera, North Carolina Opera, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. He encapsulates the mission of the Opera’s Herndon Foundation Emerging Artist Program, which serves to bridge the gap from initial training to professional success. Perhaps it’s also interesting to mention Rachelle Pike, who is making her mainstage debut with these Dutchman performances, is a first-year Emerging Artist.”
President and CEO Russell Allen commented “Virginia Opera had a very successful production of “The Flying Dutchman” twenty years ago when the company first began truly exploring the German repertory. It is exciting to see the return of Dutchman to Virginia Opera in this highly acclaimed, and well-reviewed, Glimmerglass production.”
“The Flying Dutchman” is set in the mid-1800’s in a small fishing village on the rocky coast of Norway, a haunting backdrop to the story of a young woman whose infatuation with a mythical, cursed sea captain turns to reality for her when he appears in her town. Will her love be powerful enough to break the curse that is upon him and set him free? Come aboard this journey into the dark mysteries of the sea and find out for yourself.
“The Flying Dutchman” will be performed in German with English supertitles. Performances will feature a free 30-minute pre-opera discussion by Virginia Opera’s Dr. Glenn “Dr. Opera” Winters. Tickets start at just $19 in Norfolk and Richmond and are available at vaopera.org or by calling 866.673.7282. “The Flying Dutchman“ opens Friday, April 8, 2016 at the Harrison Opera House in Norfolk, Va.