Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: José van Dam, Kurt Moll, Dunja Vejzovic, Peter Hofmann; Vienna Staatsopernchor Konzertverein- igung, Berlin PO/Herbert von Karajan
The huntsman Erik in The Flying Dutchman is scarcely a typical Wagnerian dragon-slayer, but he does have the lead tenor role. It’s therefore ironic that the name of Karajan’s Erik, Peter Hofmann – one of the finest on record, as well as one of the recording’s greatest assets – should have been inadvertently omitted from the back of the CD case. As the Dutchman, José van Dam is intense, but oddly introspective; the character’s tormented and demonic qualities have been better conveyed by others.


The real liability, however, is the Senta of Dunja Vejzovic, lacking in both visionary inspiration and technical control. Karajan’s absurdly slow tempo for the Act II duet overstretches her cruelly. There are other miscalculations from the podium, too, such as the over- blown symphonic peroration for the Dutchman/Daland duet in Act I – quite out of place for this light-hearted number. Most successful is the Overture, searing in its intensity even if the dynamic range – as throughout the set – is unnaturally and uncomfortably wide.


Woldemar Nelsson’s conducting on the 1986 Philips set is outstanding, but his Dutchman, Simon Estes, is less convincing. Other full-price alternatives shortly to heave into view are those conducted by Dohnányi for Decca and Sinopoli for DG. Naxos has also announced a budget-price set under Pinchas Steinberg for later this year. Barry Millington