Wagner opera sets sails for Artscape for first time in almost two decades

Wagner opera sets sails for Artscape for first time in almost two decades

Cape Town Opera will be staging Wagner’s epic early masterpiece, ‘Der fliegende Holländer’ (The Flying Dutchman), for four performances only at the Artscape Opera House – on August 17, 19, 23 and 26.

Grounded in Cape nautical folklore, ‘Der fliegende Holländer’ is based on the saga about a Dutch seaman who was condemned to sail around the Cape for eternity, unless true love set him free.

Director Matthew Wild’s interpretation will unleash the ghosts of Dutch colonialism in the modern Mother City. “‘Der fliegende Holländer’ is a big opera and we are going to do a big production to match,” says Wild. “It’s a big set as well, which Michael Richard has designed. The beginning suggests the Cape Town docklands, then some surprises start to be introduced to that. Not to give too much away about the production, but we are essentially looking at how our colonial heritage and how the ghosts of Dutch colonialism are still with us in modern Cape Town,” adds the director.

South African baritone Jaco Venter (the Dutchman) and soprano Johanni van Oostrum (Senta) return from Europe to make their role debuts. The powerhouse cast also includes Australian Samuel Sakker (Erik), American bass Gregory Frank (Senta’s father Daland) and Lukhanyo Moyake (Steuerman). Violina Anguelov (August 17 and 26) and Nonhlanhla Yende (August 19 and 23) will share the role of Mary.

“Redemption is a strong theme for Wagner in all of his operas, and Senta embodies this theme: redemption through love. I find that beautiful,” says Van Oostrum, who also adds that her character is somewhat of a dreamer and an outsider.

Matching the virtuosity of the singers with the bracing power of the orchestra, CTO’s Associate Music Director Tim Murray will lead the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra through the tempestuous straits of Wagner’s elemental score.

“I think it’s very easy to fall in love with the music,” says Venter. “If you tell someone to go and see a first opera in their lives, you would choose ‘La traviata’, or ‘La bohème’ or even ‘Rigoletto’. ‘Der fliegende Holländer’ is one of those perfect ones to start off a love for opera,” adds the baritone.

With over 50 chorus members, an opera of the scale of ‘Der fliegende Holländer’ is a massive undertaking and was made possible due to the support of NASPERS.

“This production is the first Wagner opera that Cape Town Opera is staging since the year 2000; the last Wagner opera was ‘Tannhäuser’. It’s an absolute showcase for the magnificent Cape Town Opera chorus, with wonderful opportunities for the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra as well. Wagner’s music is absolutely thrilling. It always has the most electrifying effect on an audience and if you can pull together a really first rate cast, like those that we have, it promises to be a night that is absolutely unforgettable,” concludes Wild.


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