Wagner: Der Fliegende Holländer

WORKS: Der Fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: Bengt Rundgren, Catarina Ligendza, Hermann Winkler, Ruth Hesse, Harald Ek, Donald McIntyre; Bavarian State Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch; dir. Václav Kaslík (film, 1974)
CATALOGUE NO: 073 4433
Despite its cinematic possibilities Dutchman has only been filmed twice (not counting John Culshaw’s 1975 BBC video). In 1964 influential East German producer Joachim Herz tailored a carefully Stasi-friendly interpretation, ending with his contemporary Senta, instead of sacrificing herself, striding out into the sunshine of Socialist Realism. Here, by contrast, veteran Václav Ka≥lík goes whole-heartedly for the Romantic jugular – very creditably, too, with lots of dark water, two huge ships, and lashings of spooky effects. The eruption of the Dutchman’s undead crew is pure Hammer Films (reminding us what a Dutchman actor Christopher Lee would have made – and early in his career almost did!). This is also much the finer version musically. Sawallisch’s keen, airy performance, in basically the 1843 version, ranks with the very best in any medium, with his excellent Bavarian forces and a truly first-rate cast. Donald McIntyre’s robust voice and craggy aspect suggest an anti-hero half-crazy rather than haunted, but he still conveys the Dutchman’s desperate vulnerability very movingly. Bengt Rundgren sings the genial, crafty skipper Daland richly and acts him to perfection, as Harald Ek does his laddish Steersman, though curiously deprived of half his song. Hermann Winkler sings Erik at a too constant forte, but looks well if a little mature. So, at first, does Catarina Ligendza, but with her gift for depicting wide-eyed emotional instability this becomes one of her finest performances, clear-voiced and intense. Maritime enthusiasts may raise the occasional smile, notably at the Dutchman’s improbably gun-bristling galleon; some may prefer Harry Kupfer’s Bayreuth psychodrama (also on DG), musically inferior. This, though, remains the finest ‘traditional’ version available. Michael Scott Rohan