Ships in the Night

Emmanuel Villaume
Theater Jones

Wagner’s early opera, The Flying Dutchman, docked its phantom ship at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas to open the new season of The Dallas Opera; it will overlap with Bizet’s ever-popular Carmen, which opens Friday.  

This production of Dutchman was shipped in from Toronto. It was created for the Canadian Opera by the revisionist director Christopher Alden, who supervised this production, with sets and costumes by Allen Moyer. While the set may be a puzzlement, the voices are amazing. These are among the best Wagnerian singers of our generation.

The creaky story came from Heinrich Heine’s satiric novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski) and uses the theme of redemption through true love and selfless sacrifice. Wagner also said that a difficult sailing from Riga to London in an equally stormy time of his life inspired it. In the transition from satire to romantic opera, some silly bits survived but Wagner overwhelms them with his glorious and unique musical voice, which was still in development at this point in his career. Proto-Wagner, as it were.

Although he wrote several operas before Dutchman, this is the only early opera still in the repertory at Bayreuth’s temple of all things Wagnerian.


On Friday, TDO Music Director Emmanuel Villaume was astonishing in the pit. Having observed him for years, there is a steady upward trend from fine conductor to one of the best of our time. His motions have concentrated (although they were never overdone) and are mostly contained within the parameters of his body. Every motion is meaningful and conveys useful information to the performers, yet his conducting technique feels free and not over-studied. The result is a performance that allows the performers latitude to express themselves within his overall conception.

This Flying Dutchman production is first-class and any opera house in the world would be proud to put it on their stage. We are fortunate to get to experience it right here in our own backyard.
Read the full review here