Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: Alfred Muff, Ingrid Haubold, Erich Knodt, Peter Seiffert, Jörg Hering, Marga Schiml; Budapest Radio Chorus, Austrian Radio SO/Pinchas Steinberg
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660025-26 DDD
The acclaimed series of Opera Classics from the budget label Naxos has now made its first foray into Wagner and scored a notable success. Pinchas Steinberg’s conducting of the overture to The Flying Dutchman has not only an apt salty tang, but also an incisiveness and dramatic momentum that stand him in good stead throughout the work. Incidental details emerge with unusual clarity, and he constantly finds room for a wonderfully expressive flexibility, heard at its best in the accompaniment to Erik’s first aria ‘Bleib, Senta!’. (Peter Seiffert, as the Erik, rises to the occasion with an impassioned, nicely shaped vocal line.) Steinberg again conducts with great intelligence in Erik’s narration of his dream, which is breathless with tense anxiety.

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Just occasionally the demonic element of the atmosphere seems to slip from his grasp, however, and the same has to be said of the Dutchman himself, Alfred Muff – though the latter’s is still a powerful, heroic delivery of the role. Ingrid Haubold’s Senta projects the requisite intensity of yearning, and the all-important visionary gleam is also present in her tone. The choral singing is admirably disciplined, though their refrain to Senta’s ghostly Ballad hardly suggests dramatic involvement: it could be a Brahms lullaby.

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Not an unqualified recommendation, then. But in spite of several notable assumptions of the title role (Hotter, Crass, Uhde and Bailey above all) there is still no ideal recording of the work. Accounts from Sinopoli and Dohnányi will be with us during 1994, but the new Naxos recording is likely to remain a strong contender at any price. As a budget release, it has no equal, and in spite of my reservations I cannot bring myself to accord it fewer than five stars. Barry Millington