Directed by Brad Dalton and conducted by Joseph Marcheso, Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” has sailed into Opera San Jose. Utilizing a large, Wagnerian orchestra, with no fewer than five French horns and three trombones, this opera truly knocks you over when it begins. A huge wave moving towards you, the rolling melodies in the string section hit you like a wall of sound. The leitmotifs associating musical themes with individuals or concepts are all introduced in the overture and appear throughout.
As the curtain rose, a massive set of wood planks that rise to the lights was revealed. The smell of wood permeated the space as the hull and mast of a ship was off to stage right. Projections of scenes of rocks and waves undulated as a living backdrop to the action on stage. Mason Gates, part of San Jose’s resident company, features as the comic relief playing the Steersman. Light on his feet as well as in voice, Gates was a lighthearted start to what evolves into a dark and heavy opera to come. Daland, the captain, was expertly sung by Gustav Andreassen. He captured all of the nuances of the role — comedian, father, and, as we fined out, an opportunist — even if it does involve giving his daughter to a sullen, slightly bizarre man who appears in a ship next to his.
Soon revealed as the Dutchman (Noel Bradley), this man is taken with Daland’s daughter as a means of escape from his curse to roam the seas undead with his crew of zombie sailors. The object of this interest, no matter to what end, is Mary, sung by Kerriann Otaño, making her Opera San Jose Opera debut. Otanô is the sun around which this opera revolves, even though she only makes her first appearance on stage in Act II, when she lights up an otherwise darkly-themed performance. Mary is enraptured by the Dutchman, and they devote themselves to each other. Mary’s betrothed, Erik, sung by Derek Taylor, was least emotionally moving and strangely rocked back and forth on his feet as he sang — a slightly distracting movement on a very serious stage.