WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: James Morris, Deborah Voigt, Ben Heppner, Jan-Hendrik Rootering Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus/James Levine
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 66342
Performances of The Flying Dutchman stand or fall by the ability of the lead bass-baritone to project the anguished, world-weary yet demonic nature of the accursed seafarer. I was not expecting a definitive reading from James Morris, whose Wotan has often tended towards the bland. But his darkly despairing Monologue is very impressive and comes closer to the superb Fischer-Dieskau (with Konwitschny, available on Berlin Classics) than most recent versions.
Deborah Voigt makes heavy weather of Senta’s Ballad: there is plenty of feeling but, thanks to Levine’s ponderous tempo, no momentum. The huge pause before her ‘sudden inspiration’ to save the Dutchman – probably a badly calculated edit – makes you think she’s had to be prodded. Ben Heppner sings Erik’s two set pieces well enough, but his Dream Narration fails to conjure any idea of a vision.
Levine gives early notice of his eccentric ideas about tempo relations, dragging the Overture to a virtual standstill at the entry of the Ballad music. He gets some magnificent and exciting playing from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (the Chorus is also fine, despite some wobbly maidens in Act II), but the unconvincingly paralytic start of the big Act II duet again suggests the ascending of self-indulgence over musical judgement. ‘Effects without causes’, as Wagner wouldhave said. Barry Millington