“The Flying Dutchman” anchors the Houston Grand Opera’s glorious return to its home in the dignified Wortham Center downtown.
Hurricane Harvey left Houston’s opera company homeless for a year, performing in a makeshift theater space in the George R. Brown Convention Center. The Wortham Center is adjacent to Buffalo Bayou, it took on 12 feet of flood water and needed major reconstruction. The resilient comeback makes the opera’s opening show exciting and even emotional.
The Pirates of the Caribbean movies franchise thrust the legend of “The Flying Dutchman” into the pop culture psyche. In the non-movie version, it’s the story of a ship captain doomed by a curse to navigate a ghost ship forever unless released by the true love of a woman who becomes captivated by him. The story traces back to the late 18th century, and this musical drama from Richard Wagner is 175 years old. It’s performed in the original German with English subtitles.
Melody Moore gives an incredible performance as the leading role of Senta. She skillfully portrays the complexities of Senta’s character, with her passionate conflict, obsessive nature and ultimate desire for salvation. When Moore and Andrzej Dobber (as the Dutchman) sing together, their voices in unison seem to connect the two on a spiritual level. It’s easy to have sympathy for the Dutchman’s fate with Dobber’s melancholic and hauntingly handsome portrayal of the title role.
The chorus of both the sailors and the seamstresses are entertaining. Their ensemble songs were both fun to watch and musically stimulating. They set the stage and the backdrop for the fateful plot of the main characters but were also a show within themselves.
I have one disappointment; my October soul was looking forward to something more ghoulish than the ghosts in this performance. The walking ghosts were barely creepy. The hologram spirits were a nice touch, but the crew of a cursed ship should be more eerie. The projection in this show are marvelously impressive. Instead of water, the rain and waves are made of dancing light and shadows cast onto the stage. They make the fabled watery setting seem real.
The Houston Grand Opera is showing “The Flying Dutchman” through Nov 2. First-time opera-goers can get $15 tickets, and patrons 25 and younger can pay their age. Street parking is free downtown after 6 p.m. and all day Sunday, while the Theater District Parking Garage is $12.