Wagnerian singers are a special breed: with powerful voices that can soar into the upper reaches of an opera house, they can bring life to their superhuman characters, heroes and heroines who strive for romantic ecstasy and nobly weather its tumults. Ever since the Lyric Opera recruited a cast of Wagnerians for its Ring cycle in the mid-90s, it has slowly transformed itself into a sort of Bayreuth on Lake Michigan, offering notable productions of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Tristan und Isolde. For this revival of Der fliegende Holländer (“The Flying Dutchman”), its first since a 1983 Jean-Pierre Ponnelle staging, the Lyric is rolling out a brand-new production. This opera helped launch the young Wagner’s career in the early 1840s, and it displays many of the characteristics that would come to define his work–the theme of redemption through love, the technique of the leitmotiv, and the tight interweaving of orchestral music and libretto. The Dutchman, like the parade of tormented Wagnerian heroes that were to follow, is a doomed romantic; for a blasphemous oath the devil condemns him to sail his ship, alone but for a phantom crew, until he finds a woman who will love him faithfully. Here the title role is sung by bass-baritone James Morris, whose Wotan in the Lyric’s Ring reaffirmed his status as a Wagnerian par excellence. The Dutchman is a psychologically complex, emotionally wounded protagonist, and I’m confident Morris will deliver a layered, well-anchored performance. Lyric house soprano Catherine Malfitano plays Senta, the woman who falls in love with the Dutchman; bass Franz Hawlata is Daland, Senta’s father; tenor Kim Begley is Erik, her rich young suitor; mezzo Susan Gorton is her nurse, Mary; tenor Endrik Wottrich is the Dutchman’s steersman. Andrew Davis, who’s having a banner season as the company’s brand-new music director, conducts. The staging is by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, who apprenticed at Bayreuth and has often worked with Davis; he’s presenting the opera not in the usual three acts but in only one, without intermission, as Wagner originally intended. This production runs through March 18. Saturday and Wednesday, February 10 and 14, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 312-332-2244.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Dan Rest–Lyric Opera of Chicago/Winnie Klotz–Metropolitan Opera.