Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: Falk Struckmann, Jane Eaglen, Peter Seiffert, Robert Holl, Felicity Palmer, Rolando Villazon; Berlin State Opera Chorus, Berlin Staatskapelle/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-88063-2
Seven years have to pass before the Flying Dutchman is allowed back on to land to try his luck again. Some of us have been waiting a good deal longer than that for an ideal recording of the work: one that fully conveys both the torment and the demonic quality of the eternal mariner, with a Senta both compassionate and able to negotiate her taxing role, plus superb conducting and the highest modern recording standards. Major-league recordings have come in recent years from Dohnányi, Levine and Sinopoli, but all are flawed in one way or another. Now Barenboim completes his first-rate Wagner cycle with a Dutchman that, while excellently conducted in terms of both pace and textural detail, falls short of the ideal on the vocal front.

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Falk Struckmann’s Dutchman is darkly coloured, technically secure and powerfully projected, but he doesn’t bring to it the variety of declamation and musical intelligence of Fischer-Dieskau (for Konwitschny on Berlin Classics). Similarly Jane Eaglen bestrides the top register of Senta’s part with comparative ease, tackling the Ballad in the original higher key of A minor with gusto. She sounds uninvolved in her exchanges with Erik, however, and in the big duet with the Dutchman, she steams ahead like an ocean liner without really engaging in the dynamics of the role. Peter Seiffert, though a touch bland, and Robert Holl are acceptable as Erik and Daland, while Felicity Palmer is an incisive Mary. The orchestral and choral forces are excellent.

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The new recording is good enough to become the new benchmark, but I hope we don’t have to wait another seven years for Bryn Terfel to make the definitive one.