Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: Robert Hale, Hildegard Behrens, Josef Protschka, Kurt RydlVienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna PO/Christoph von Dohnányi
Yet another Flying Dutchman heaves into view, this time from Christoph von Dohnányi, who made a favourable impression when he conducted it at Covent Garden in 1992, and who is currently committing a Ring cycle to disc. He brings a demonic intensity to the overture and the Dutchman’s Monologue – the ‘crack of doom’ resounds hair-raisingly in the latter – and idiosyncrasies of tempo (such as the distant effect created for the ‘mist of times long ago’ in the Act II duet) are always well motivated. Unusually for a recording, Dohnányi adopts the version in three separate acts: an unsatisfactory decision unless one interpolates one’s own interval, since the material repeated in this version is twice heard back-to-back.


Robert Hale’s Dutchman is by turns powerful and introspective, almost tender, but, like most of his rivals in the role, he lacks the character’s diabolic aura and sense of desperation. Hildegard Behrens as Senta may be vocally less secure – even squally at times – but she is right inside the part. For the trembling fervour of her dedication to death, and the burning conviction with which every phrase is invested, one can readily forgive technical shortcomings.


Josef Protschka shapes Erik’s ‘Mein Herz’ with a delicacy worthy of a lieder singer, and Kurt Rydl’s Daland is strongly sung. Overall, the performance deserves no fewer stars than the budget version on Naxos (reviewed in December), but none of the well-conducted accounts to have appeared in recent years has yet thrown up an ideally tormented Dutchman. Will forthcoming recordings from DG (Sinopoli) or Sony (Levine) be able to plug the gap? Barry Millington