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La Scala’s production of the Flying Dutchman

Posted on Facebook on March 8, 2013

La Scala, March 3, 2013 (Photo: Khaled Fahmy)

OK, some friends asked that I update them with news from La Scala’s production of the Flying Dutchman that I just saw. I have never written about opera, given that I am a novice, but given the amazing production, I thought I’d give it a try.
Well, the night truly belonged to Terfel. He simply commanded the stage, both by his sheer physical presence and his voice. I watched him closely, and he is just so sure of himself, he didn’t have to move; just a small gesture for his finger would cause your hair to rise. He was so convincing as the Utterly devastated Dutchman that his voice reached every part of the theatre. I don’t know German, but when in his opening monologue he mentioned the word “Tod” , I knew it meant “death”. I raced with my eyes on the English translation on the screen in front of me, and read the words “never death”. His way of lamenting his eternal curse that not even death would rid him of was so devastating that you felt your entire body sucked up in his agony. 


But he was not the only one who was excellent. Anja Kampe, who played Senta, was so thoroughly convincing that, again, it was difficult to think that she was only acting. There was also this chemistry between her and Terfel that seems to go beyond the stage. This I think is only her second performance in La Scala, but I won’t be surprised if it turns out that they have been on stage together before. They just seem very comfortable with each other.


The staging was a bit strange at first. The producer, Homoki, decided not to stage it in a ship or at port, but in what looked like a clerical office at the end of the nineteenth century. It looked like an insurance company or the headquarters of the East India company. There was a map of the southern half of Africa and a clock that was sometime standing still, and at other times racing frantically.the setting was odd at times as when the crew of the ghost ship towards the end where being invited by phone but from the very beginning i had the impression that what was being alluded to was Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which added a very poignant dimension.


All in all, an exhilarating production. Truly worth the trip from Cairo. This plus the Grom ice-cream, of course.

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