Victorian Opera’s 2015 flagship production of Wagner’s early masterpiece hoists sail.

Opera-goers who are weary of interpretations of Wagner’s early masterpiece, The Flying Dutchmanas a dark hallucination by a sexually repressed Senta, will find Victorian Opera’s production which opened on Valentine’s Day at the Palais Theatre refreshingly different. It is picturesque, imposes no puzzling Konzept, is beautifully sung by an Australian and international cast and is impressively played by the Australian Youth Orchestra under the well-paced conducting of Richard Mills.

The goal of VO’s production, directed by Roger Hodgman, has been to stay close to the original spirit of Wagner’s work while utilising the latest image-projection technology. The composer’s stage directions have generally been followed, and attention has also been paid to his Remarks on Performing the Opera ‘The Flying Dutchman’, first published in 1853. Evidence of the latter came with the Dutchman’s crucial monologue Die Frist is um, sung by the excellent and highly experienced German baritone Oskar Hillebrand. ‘[The Dutchman’s] first phrases should be sung without the slightest emotion, as by one completely exhausted’ wrote Wagner, and this was how it was done. Injunctions to show the sea raging and foaming, and the heaving of Daland’s...