The Richard Wagner piece gets an endearing makeover in its first staging in Singapore.

 

It’s not hard to stand out when you have a Western romantic opera dressed up with Asian folk elements like shadow puppetry.

That’s how German opera The Flying Dutchman made an impression in its Singapore debut on Oct 23.

Composed by Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) and first performed in 1843 in Dresden, Germany, The Flying Dutchman is a tale of redemption through love. Titular character Dutchman (Oleksandr Pushniak) is doomed to sail the seas for eternity unless he finds a woman who loves him. He gets his chance when greedy merchant Daland (Andreas Hörl) offers to trade his only daughter Senta (Kathleen Parker) for the vast treasure aboard his ghost ship.

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Kathleen Parker plays love interest Senta, who could save the Dutchman from his fate of sailing forever.

While the story was retold faithfully in German in its first staging at the Victoria Theater, its backdrop has shifted closer to home.

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A set framed by a wayang stage incorporates shadow puppetry into the background, adding detail to the backdrop of the performance.

In this adaptation by Richard Wagner Association (Singapore) and OperaViva in association with theater company The Finger Players, the stage set includes a kelong [offshore fishing village built on stilts], a familiar sight in the waters off Malaysia and Indonesia.

The eye-catching stage costume by local designer Max Tan features the intricate prints, bead work and tassels commonly seen in Indonesia’s traditional clothing in place of the opulence of Victorian fashion.

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The cast is robed in Southeast Asian garb, featuring designs and accessories from the region.

More interestingly, stage directors Chong Tze Chien and Glen Goei also take the creative license to inject wayang kulit [shadow puppetry] in the show. Not only is it effective as a storytelling device in the prologue, it also adds to the oriental touch of the play.

“A key entry point was to (set) the production firmly in a local context through the use of a wayang stage as a framing device,” said Goei, 53before the show began.

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Puppeteers move the miniature set to create a shadowed enlarged set, following the traditional Javanese style of wayang.

It’s not easy to infuse so many Asian elements in a 19th century German composition without diluting its artistic values. But the Singapore team behind The Flying Dutchman has somehow nailed it.

Given that this is the first Wagnerian piece to be introduced here, it’s fitting to stage it with an Asian twist to make it more accessible to local theater-goers.

But even without that extra touch, the melodious score and strong performance by the leads will make your voyage with The Flying Dutchman an enjoyable one.

 

Our Rating: 4/5

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Tell us what you thought of the opera, and which performance you would like us to review next in the comments below!

 

Information:

Ticketing Agent: Sistic (http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/dutch1016)

Ticket Price (excluding booking fees): $46, $66, $106, $146

Language: German, with subtitles in English and Mandarin

Performances: Oct 23, 25, 28, and 30, 2016 at selected timings (International Cast); Oct 27, 2016 at 7.30pm (Asian Cast)

Photos courtesy of Tan Ngiap Heng / Richard Wagner Association (Singapore)