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'Flying Dutchman' features strong performances — and some weak ones

"THE FLYING DUTCHMAN," UTAH OPERA, Capitol Theatre, through Oct. 21; 355-2787 or 888-451-2787 for tickets.

"The Flying Dutchman" is the earliest of Richard Wagner's operas to find a permanent place in the repertoire. The story is based on the well-known legend of the Flying Dutchman, who is condemned to sail the seas forever. Only once every seven years is he allowed onshore to seek a woman who will love him for eternity and thus break the curse.

When the opera opens, the Dutchman and Daland, also a sea captain, have come to port seeking shelter from a raging storm. The Dutchman offers Daland part of his immense wealth if he will put him up in his house for the night. When it turns out that Daland has a daughter, the Dutchman begs for her hand in marriage, hoping she will be his redemption. Daland agrees to this.

Senta, Daland's daughter, has dreamt about the Dutchman, and when they finally come face to face, they fall in love, and she vows to be his until death. Erik, Senta's betrothed, is devastated by her decision. Unfortunately, the Dutchman overhears Erik trying to woo Senta back. Angered by what he thinks is her deception, he rushes onto his ship and sets sail. Senta runs after him and throws herself off the cliff. The curse is lifted, and the two are united in death.

Utah Opera's current production unites veteran "Dutchman" conductor Klauspeter Seibel with leads for whom this is their inaugural foray into Wagner.

In the title role is baritone Nathan Berg. He has a wonderfully lyrical voice. However, at Saturday's performance he lacked conviction in the role, nor did he bring any depth to it. While he does cut a tragic figure, he isn't strong as the Dutchman, and his interpretation desperately craved credibility. Only in the love duet with Senta in Act II did Berg bring feeling and emotion to his role.

Bass Gustav Andreassen as Daland was somewhat better. He, too, has a lyrical voice, and he did bring some depth to his character.

Soprano Lise Lindstrom as Senta gave a solid performance. Her voice is expressive and has a dramatic quality to it that is suited for this role. Her duet with the Dutchman was forceful, and her ballad earlier in the second act was infused with an earnestness that made her longing for a man she had yet to meet real and palpable.

As Erik, tenor Roger Honeywell was compelling. His anguish when he discovers Senta doesn't want him was real and heartfelt.

Contralto Barbara Dever as Mary and tenor Jason Baldwin as the Steersman sang well, as did the Utah Opera Chorus.

Seibel conducted rather expansively Saturday, which occasionally hindered the dramatic flow of the story. Nor did he always have the Utah Symphony under control. Frequent missed cues and sloppy entrances glaringly detracted from the drama unfolding on the stage.