LOU'S VIEWS: In Indy Opera’s ‘Flying Dutchman,’ strong voices almost drowned by overdone visuals

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

Indianapolis Opera’s truncated 2012/2013 season featured only three productions—one of which was actually an IU Opera presentation. That put enormous pressure—even more enormous than usual—on the season’s only IO-created grand opera, “The Flying Dutchman” (May 10, 12). Compounding the challenge: Last season’s closer, a “Faust” outstanding visually and vocally, set a high bar.

Many of the same elements were in play here, but the result, while fine, didn’t achieve the same magic.

ae-flyingdutchman-092-15col.jpg A strong chorus livened up Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” the only large-scale opera of the season created by Indianapolis Opera. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

No fault on the performers. There aren’t many dimensions to play with the Dutchman—he’s doomed to cruise the seas until he finds a maiden willing to love him until death and doesn’t seem to be too picky about who he picks. But bass-baritone Kevin Short sang the haunted title character with determination and force.

Tenor Garrett Sorenson made the supporting role of Erik, the jilted lover, feel more like a lead and perked the proceedings up whenever he appeared. As the apex of their passions, Jane Dutton was appealing if at times uncertain vocally.

As the father who willingly turns his daughter over to the Dutchman as a way to acquire treasure, bass-baritone Kristopher Irmiter brought much-need humor to the gloomy tale. And the chorus proved glorious, as powerful collectively as the able and strong Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

While his projection-based visuals added to “Faust,” though, stage director Joachim Schamberger’s set and video design weighed down this “Dutchman.” Images, projected on a scrim, wore out their welcome and, in the case of the boat being tossed by waves, bordered on comical. Even in opera, sometimes less is more.

Schamberger’s take on the story isn’t about a lovesick gal and a bewitched guy but, rather, about an attempt to reunite the two halves of a person into a whole. He sees the Dutchman and Senta as a single person—an interesting concept but, unfortunately, its setup pulls attention away from the overture. Rather than offer a chance for the audience to settle in with Wagner, he diverts attention with added stage action.

What seems forgotten: The primary glory of grand opera is the music (that’s why, for instance, we talk of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” rather than librettist Schikaneder’s “The Magic Flute”). Again, less might have equaled more.

To his credit, Schamberger’s concept does lead to a visually powerful last moment, beautifully staged and played. I’m just not convinced it charted the best course to get there.

Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles,” being given a luminously low-key production at the Phoenix Theatre (through June 9), does what seems to be a simple thing but is actually a rarity in contemporary theater. It lets its characters be.

Not-so-fresh from a bike ride across the country, Leo (Andrew Martin) arrives at the apartment of his grandmother in New York.

He’s primarily riding away from things—the death of his best friend, an awkward encounter with his adopted sister, responsibility in general—rather than toward anything. His ex-girlfriend visits. So does a potential new conquest (a breath of smartly drawn fresh air from actress Arianne Villareal).

But the play focuses on Leo and his grandmother, Vera (Martha Jacobs, earning rather than demanding respect, laughs and tears). She’s an octogenarian more angry than sad about the moments when her “head isn’t really right.” She takes him in, listens (when her hearing aid is turned on) and, well, don’t look for tons of plot twists and shocking revelations. Herzog has more subtle things in mind.

Neither her leads nor her supporting characters are generic types. They are specific people. Every quirk doesn’t have a late-in-the-show payoff. Their issues aren’t resolved with hugs (although there are some beautiful, complex hugging moments). They are living through their specific, sometimes messy, lives and Herzog respects that, which is enormously refreshing.

The only place the narrative stumbled for me was in a revelatory monologue that’s overwritten and unnecessarily absurd. The scene, though, is smartly directed and beautifully acted, ending in the magical transformation of what could be a bring-down-the-house punchline into a sweet, truthful and far more satisfying moment.

Other shows may have better scripts, stronger performances or more interesting design and direction, but I haven’t seen anything else this season where all of those work together so harmoniously.•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!