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The Flying Dutchman / Der fliegende Holländer [English National Opera… (1982)

by Richard Wagner

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Richard Wagner

Der fliegende Holländer
The Flying Dutchman

English National Opera 12

Calder, Paperback, 1999.

8vo. 80 pp.

First published, 1982.

Contents

List of Illustrations

Behind ‘The Flying Dutchman’ John Warrack
An Introduction to ‘The Flying Dutchman’ John Deathridge
Loneliness, Love and Death William Vaughan
The Overture to ‘The Flying Dutchman’ Richard Wagner
Remarks on Performing ‘The Flying Dutchman’ Richard Wagner

Thematic Guide

‘Der fliegende Holländer’ / ‘The Flying Dutchman’
poem by Richard Wagner / English translation by David Pountney

Act One
Act Two
Act Three

Discography
Bibliography

==================================================​

Der fliegende Holländer (1843) is the perfect introduction to Wagner. It was his first mature work – and the last that may, with some reservations, be called an opera. It is separated into conventional musical numbers (arias, duets, etc.) and some of the ensembles, notably the Dutchman’s duets with Daland and Senta, are amusingly Italianate. Back in the early 1840s, Wagner’s ideas of the Gesamtkunstwerk were yet to be formulated. He had already composed three operas, the last one of which, Rienzi, was an honest attempt to outdo Meyerbeer; but none of these early experiments is included in the so-called Wagner canon. (Some years ago, in the late 1950s, I think, there was a Bayreuth poll whether or not to produce Rienzi: the decision was negative.) The Wagner canon consists of the Der fliegende Holländer and the nine music dramas that followed it during the next forty years or so; the first of these, Tannhäuser (1845), still contained operatic elements, but in Lohengrin (1850) Wagner already achieved this perfect fusion of text and music which transformed opera into music drama. He never looked back. Last but not least, especially when we are talking of introductions, this is the shortest among Wagner’s mature works, the only one, in fact, that fits comfortably on two CDs. (Well, so does Das Rheingold; but a suitable introduction it is not.) And it has been exceptionally well served on record.

This ENO guide is the perfect introduction to Der fliegende Holländer. Fittingly, it is the shortest of all volumes dedicated to Wagner. Yet, it contains a wealth of material. This includes the complete libretto in the original German with a line-to-line English translation; three erudite essays on the subtleties of the music and the disparate influences that shaped the text; Wagner’s own two pieces on the subject, both fascinating; 35 black-and-white photos of singers and sets, mostly gloomy men with tragic eyes among masts and rigs; Thematic Guide with 40 music examples, cross-linked with the essays and the libretto; short discography and even shorter bibliography. All this in mere 80 pages! Only the last two parts are disappointing; both are perfunctory and dated. The rest is consistently top notch. Even the cover is surprisingly arresting, quite unlike almost all others in the series which are simply horrible. The red colour was supposed to be concentrated in the sails of the Dutchman’s ship, not in some mammoth incarnation of the Sun, but never mind that.

Jack Warrack’s essay is a delightful treasure trove about various subtle influences that might have stimulated Wagner’s insanely eclectic genius during his formative years. These range from the tales of E. T. A. Hoffmann and other literary specimens from the “so-called Schauerromantik, or Horror Romanticism” (Richard remained a life-long admirer of ghost stories), to the German Romantic opera of Weber and Marschner, and finally, at least in terms of orchestration and structure of the recitatives, to the French comic opera of Auber and Mehul. Wagner borrowed freely, not to stay stole directly, from this wealth of bizarre stories and sinister characters, but what he did in his opera was, of course, something radically new that transcended his sources. The Dutchman may have had his antecedents in Marshner’s Vampyr or Weber’s Euryanthe, but he is a “tragic hero of larger dimensions than anything in Weber and Marschner”. Ironically, but hardly unexpectedly, the opera was initially received with cool indifference, as a step back from the flat heroism of Rienzi to the fairy-tale world of German Romanticism. Even perceptive judges like Berlioz failed to appreciate Wagner’s startling originality. Mr Warrack suggests that the lacklustre reception may have been at least partly due to the subpar standards of the orchestra in the Dresden opera, where Wagner conducted the premiere in 1843, but he doesn’t seem to believe this himself.

Mr Vaughan’s “Loneliness, Love and Death” puts under the magnifying glass Wagner’s literary sources, from the obscure roots of the myth about “Vanderdecken” to Heine’s version from 1834 which directly inspired Wagner’s libretto, and thus complements Mr Warrack’s more unorthodox approach (he doesn’t even mention Heine). The brooding figure of the Dutchman, with his alienation and suffering, appealed to the overactive imagination of the Romantics in the same way as Faust and Don Juan did. No wonder they turned him from villain into hero. It was Heine, however, who introduced the idea of his redemption through womanly love which Wagner seized avidly on. The great difference is, of course, that Heine treated the whole story with satirical pen and unflinching cynicism. Wagner, quite to the contrary, developed it with the utmost seriousness and solemnity. I don’t know how widely Heine’s Aus den Memoiren des Herren von Schnabelewopski is read today, but Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer is staged constantly worldwide.

It is somewhat surprising to discover that deep inside himself Wagner was an incorrigible sentimentalist all his life. The whole canon of his mature works, if it has to be reduced to a single message, may be summed up as variations on the “Love Will Save the World” theme. In the Dutchman’s case, it was a woman’s love that granted him redemption. Forty years later, Wagner’s ideas on the subject culminated into Parsifal’s all-embracing compassion, a more mature form of love that doesn’t require self-sacrifice and has much wider implications than Senta’s otherworldly attraction. Between these extreme end points, relatively immature forms of feminine love failed to save the male protagonist from lustful desires (Tannhäuser), the craving for power (Wotan), or simply his own immaturity (Siegfried). Of course, it is far more complex than that. Tristan and Isolde are the obvious exception; with them, for once, love annihilates anything outside itself and leaves the world take care of itself. Nor does Lohengrin fit into the pattern; here it is the Knight in Shining Armour who fails to save the saintly Elsa, but she has only herself to blame. As for the Die Meistersinger, this may be the greatest tragedy Wagner ever created: here love steps back and gives way to profound resignation.

The musico-dramatic analysis by Mr Deathridge is exemplary. It should, indeed, serve as an example how this tricky subject ought to be handled. The style is lively, engaging, and accessible. The attitude is one of deep respect, but not silly worship. Mr Deathridge has an almost unerring sense for spotting the weak moments in the music, and he doesn’t hesitate to expose them with incisive irreverence. The duet between Senta and the Dutchman in the end of Act Two is correctly described as “heavy-handed” and “one of the most exhausting numbers in the opera”. On the other hand, the author praises Wagner as a “master of concision”. This is easy prey for anti-Wagnerites. Two and a half hours at his shortest. “Master of concision”, indeed! But those not insensitive to Wagner’s emotive power will appreciate the example of Mr Deathridge: the “grinding figure in the violas and cellos” and the prominent diminished fifth in the beginning of “Die Frist ist um”. Wagner could be long-winded on occasion, but far less often than is generally believed (usually by people who either don’t care for his music or know nothing about it). Mr Deathridge goes number by number through the whole opera, and in most cases he has something perceptive to say. Consider his take on the masterly opening scene that was misunderstood even by such Wagnerian authority as Ernest Newman:

Because so many good things happen later in the Dutchman, the mastery of its opening scene has often been overlooked. The scene is built around the cries of the Norwegian sailors and the Steersman’s song. Between these colourful figures Wagner inserted the prosaic figure of Daland (Senta’s father) who sings some appropriately four-square music. Ernest Newman once criticized Wagner for giving Daland some monotonous melodies, including his first arioso. But Newman gave little credit to Wagner’s dramatic instinct. Daland’s music may be sometimes dull when seen in isolation; but in the context of the sailors’ and Steerman’s songs, not to mention the whistling of the wind expressed by a short figure played by the piccolo, the effect is exactly right. Daland is the epitome of normality. Why shouldn’t his music be unexceptional too?

The essay also contains an introductory part that deals with the music in more general terms and with some intriguing biographical details. Chief among the latter is Wagner’s strange decision to change the original Scottish setting just two months before the Dresden premiere. Why did he go to such considerable trouble so late? Partly, Mr Deathridge suggests, to disguise his debt to Marschner and Heine; Der Vampyr was also set in Scotland, Heine’s Dutchman lands there and meets a “Scottish businessman”. But the more important reason, he continues, probably was Wagner’s desire to “heighten the autobiographical significance” of the work. The case is well argued. As early as February 1843, just a few weeks after the premiere on January 2, Wagner wrote the essay Autobiographical Sketch in which he elaborated on the precarious sea journey along the Norwegian coast in 1839 that “made a wonderful impression on my imagination; the legend of the Flying Dutchman […] took on a distinctive, strange colouring that only my sea voyage could have given it.” So this journey has become one of the best known pieces of Wagnerian lore as the direct inspiration of the opera. In later years, Wagner made “ingenious attempts to see his early works, particularly the Dutchman, as precursors of the music drama”, as Mr Deathridge bluntly tells us. Indeed, in A Communication to My Friends (1851), another seminal essay, Wagner made the highly disingenuous claim that Senta’s ballad was composed first and “laid the thematic foundation of the entire music of the opera.” He carefully omitted to mention that he composed three of the musical numbers – Senta’s ballad, and the songs of the Norwegian sailors and the Dutchman’s crew – roughly at the same time for a Paris audition and well before he started the libretto in 1841. Mr Deathridge rightly calls this attitude “tendentious”. He concludes the matter thus:

The supreme irony of Wagner’s later interpretation is that he overlooked the virtues of his own music. Like many writers who have taken his words at face value, he came to believe that the Dutchman was a closely integrated network of organically related themes. In fact, the opera tends to go in the opposite direction. What makes it so effective is not the sophisticated leitmotif system of, say, the Ring, but a rumbustious ragbag of disparate elements that sound quite unlike the seamless textures of the mature music dramas.

Perceptive yet misguided statement. The author was wise not to take Wagner’s words at their face value. But he failed to appreciate them in the context of his life and work.

If Mr Deathridge is right about this artificial boosting of the biographical significance, and he does sound convincing, this is yet another proof of Wagner’s unbelievable self-awareness. This insight into himself, so powerful yet so hard to put into words, is one of his most extraordinary characteristics. He knew he had made an enormous leap forwards with Der fliegende Holländer. He knew his maturity had started. He knew there never again would be – never again could be – potboilers like Rienzi. There still was a lot of work to do; he knew that, too. This is the point that Mr Deathridge misses. It really is a “supreme irony”. Wagner didn’t “overlook the virtues of his own music.” Quite to the contrary! He knew them better than anybody. He regarded Der fliegende Holländer merely as a beginning. In this respect, he was perfectly correct to consider the opera, together with the next two, as the “precursors of music drama”. He may have been “tendentious” and he may have deluded himself with ingenuous arguments – some people would use stronger words! – but that doesn’t change the fact that the rest of his life corroborated the intuitive understanding he had no later than 1851, having already composed Tannhäuser and Lohengrin but not a note of his “mature” music dramas, and probably years earlier. Why else would he change the setting to a more personal one if he wasn’t convinced in the opera’s significance?

Wagner’s two essays are essential reading for anybody seriously interested in the opera and were newly translated for this volume by Melanie Karpinski. It is fascinating to compare this translation with the much praised and much blamed classic attempt by William Ashton Ellis (Prose Works, 8 vols., 1892-99) [1]. As far as “Remarks on Performing ‘The Flying Dutchman’” (1852) is concerned, Melanie’s text is considerably modernized and easier to follow. Whether or not it is an improvement, I do not profess to know. It should be remembered that any translation that improves the original is just as bad as the one that makes it worse. I have not been able to find the German original and so have made no comparisons, but I have a feeling, vague and as yet unfounded, that this new translation makes Wagner’s prose stylistically better than it is. But that, even if true, is a small price to pay for learning first-hand his thoughts on his own works. It is a rare opportunity that should not be missed. It is hoped that the matter, if not the manner, has survived the language barrier.

Wagner’s “Remarks” are indispensable for just about anybody, from ordinary music lovers to singers and producers. As every consummate music dramatist, he starts by stressing the “closest unity” between the orchestra and the action on the stage, and his attention to detail is indeed astonishing. For instance, the Dutchman’s first step on the shore should happen during “the first notes of the ritornello in the aria (the deep E-sharp of the basses)” and his rolling gait is suggested by “a wave-like figure for the cellos and violas”. Such descriptions make you realise what should be obvious but is, alas, often overlooked: even in Wagner’s early mature works, there is nothing, either in the music or in the text (including the stage directions!), that is accidental or careless. Nobody, of course, is obliged to follow the composer’s instructions. But he would do well to take them seriously; if he feels inclined to reject them, he should do so only after serious consideration.

For my part, Wagner’s extremely detailed directions how the Dutchman’s great monologue in the first act (“Die Frist ist um”) should be acted is worth the price of the whole book. Though largely concerned with externals, Wagner does not neglect the spiritual dimension. The first words of the monologue (ridiculously called “Aria” in the libretto), he advises, “should be sung without the slightest emotion, as by one completely exhausted” in order to emphasise the Dutchman’s having gone through the same worthless ritual countless times already. He insists again and again on avoiding histrionic gestures and maintaining “a certain awe-inspiring calm in [the Dutchman’s] outward demeanour”. Priceless advice seldom heeded! Compare with this vocally fine but preposterously directed film, or with this (in)famous Bayreuth performance as staged by Harry Kupfer, and decide for yourselves where your preference lies. Personally, I would go with Wagner any time.

Towards the end of the essay, Wagner spends some time on the other characters as well, again offering sage advice. Senta “must not be portrayed in a modern, sickly, sentimental fashion!” (for she is “a tough, Nordic girl”), nor is Erik a “sentimental whiner” (on the contrary, he is “stormy, impulsive and sombre”), and the performer of Daland is entreated “not to drag his [“rough and hardy character”] into the realm of comedy”. Wise words indeed! Think how often you’ve seen Senta presented as a hopeless dreamer, Erik as a lovesick fool, and Daland as a buffoon, and you will know how far modern performance practice has steered its creaky ship towards the shattering rocks of perverse mediocrity.

You can enjoy the overture to Der fliegende Holländer as an orchestral showpiece without knowing anything about the opera. But if you do know something about the plot, the characters and the themes that characterise them, I guarantee your appreciation will be greatly improved. The overture is not just a showpiece. It is a lot more than that. It is a symphonic poem that encapsulates the whole drama. No better way than Wagner’s perfectly compelling essay (actually a short program note written in 1853) to start your serious exploration. In his typical, emotional and grandiloquent style, he explains the overture as both a linear narrative and a character sketch of the Dutchman’s tortured mind. Instead of mediocre summary, I propose to quote it complete for the benefit of the curious Wagnerian neophyte. I omit all references to leitmotifs – the overture apparently mentions 10 of the first 12 in the Thematic Guide – which the ENO editors kindly indicate, but I urge the attentive listener to identify the three major moods – the Dutchman’s terrifying bondage, Senta’s power of redemption, and the cheerful tune of the sailors coming home – and work imaginatively with them.

The dreaded ship of the ‘Flying Dutchman’ flies on the wings of the storm; it nears the coast and drops anchor, for it is here that its captain has been promised salvation; we hear the piteous strains of this message of redemption, which sound like a mixture of prayer and complaint. The doomed man listens to them sullenly, bereft of hope: tired and longing for death he steps onto dry land, whilst his exhausted crew, weary of life, brings the ship silently to rest. – How often has this unhappy man already been through this scene! How often has he steered his ship towards land, where once in seven years it is granted him to step ashore; how often has he hoped to find the end of his torment, and oh! – how often has he found his hopes dashed and returned to his frenzied wandering across the seas! In order to force his destruction he deliberately fought against billow and storm, steering his ship into the raging abyss – yet here it was not consumed; riding the billows he steered it towards the rocks – yet here it was not dashed to pieces. All the terrible dangers of the sea which once he scorned in his lust for victorious adventure now laugh at him – they cannot harm him, for he is cursed to sail the seas forever, hunting for spoils which cannot thrill him, and never to find that which alone can redeem him.

A stately ship sweeps past him; he hears the joyful song of the sailors who are happy to be nearing home: he is consumed with anger at such merriment and, borne by the storm, he flashes past furiously, frightening and silencing the happy singers and putting the crew to flight. He cries out for salvation from the depths of his misery: in the lifeless desert of his lone existence only a wife can bring him release! But where does his rescuer live? Where does a heart beat in sympathy for him? Where is the one who will not flee from him in horror and fear, like these cowardly men, who make the sign of the cross at his arrival? A glimmer of light then breaks through his darkness and pierces his tormented soul like lightning. It dies away, and then re-kindles: the seaman keeps the lodestar firmly in sight and steers determinedly through storm and wave towards it. What draws him so powerfully is the look of a woman which is full of sublime sadness and heaven-sent sympathy, which forces its way through him! A heart has opened its unending depths to the sufferings of the doomed man: it must sacrifice itself to him, it must break with compassion and destroy itself in order to put an end to his misery. The cursed man breaks down at the sight of this divine vision, as his ship is dashed to pieces and engulfed by the ocean. He then rises, transfigured, from the waves, led by her victorious, rescuing hand towards the dawning of sublimest love.


Some fine rhetoric here! Listen to the 10-12 minutes of the overture and see how it fits the music. I think it does rather well; there are several awkward moments that require certain stretching of Wagner’s story, but nothing terrible.

Speaking of translations, it is a pity that Andrew Porter, who did the whole Ring and two of the three late masterpieces, apparently didn’t show interest in the trio “Romantic operas” from the 1840s. David Pountney’s translation, made in 1982 for his own production at the ENO, is fluent and lucid, but occasionally with unintentional comic overtones. The Dutchman’s defiant “Ha, stolzer Ozean!”, for example, has become the much diluted “Ha, curb your arrogance!” But let me not quibble further. It is a fine translation that will give you an excellent idea of the drama.

If you are a newly hatched Wagner nut, especially one who finds Der fliegende Holländer irresistible, this ENO guide has a sure place on your shelves. Get it. You won’t regret it. Nor is it likely to find better price- and size-to-volume ratios on the market. Too bad that the biblio- and the discography were not updated since 1982, but that’s a minor defect compared to the merits of the book as a whole.

Postscript: A Brief Discography
Expanded and augmented version of the perfunctory discography in the book. No comprehensive overview attempted; for the closest approximation of this, see again here. Artistic merit is deemed more important than sound quality or market availability; please note that the last two may vary greatly. The order is chronological. Each entry conforms to the following layout:

Year – Conductor – Recording type and location – Label(s);
Dutchman, Senta, Daland, Erik.
Comments.

1944 – Clemens Krauss – Radio, Munich – Preisser, Opera d’Oro, Membran;
Hans Hotter, Viorica Ursuleac, Georg Hann, Karl Ostertag.
Recorded at two concert performances on 14 and 19 May, 1944. Indispensable because of Hotter in his absolute prime and the impassioned conducting of Krauss. Excellent sound for the age.

1955 – Josef Keilberth – Live, Bayreuth – Testament (stereo), Teldec (mono);
Hermann Uhde, Astrid Varnay, Ludwig Weber, Rudolf Lustig.
Uhde is one of the most memorably anguished Dutchmans on record. Varnay’s Senta is also legendary, rightly so. Testament’s edition is, of course, preferable, if costly. Decca’s early stereo is impressive.

1955 – Hans Knappertsbusch – Live, Bayreuth – Orfeo, Goldem Melodram, Music & Arts;
Hermann Uhde, Astrid Varnay, Ludwig Weber, Wolfgang Windgassen.
Recording of a performance at the Bayreuth Festival (22 July 1955). The same cast as the previous entry save for Windgassen as Erik. The comparison between Keilberth and Knappertsbusch, leading the same orchestra at the same time and in the same opera (and with almost the same cast), is fascinating.

1956 – Joseph Keilberth – Live, Bayreuth – Myto, Golden Melodram, Walhall;
George London, Astrid Varnay, Arnolod van Mill, Josef Traxel.
If you’re fan of George London’s velvety bass-baritone, this is a must. He is often criticized for being booming and unsubtle, but I do think both accusations are largely, if not entirely, unjust. This is the earliest – and perhaps the finest – of London’s (at least) four live recordings of the part (also with Sawallisch, Bayreuth, 1959; Schippers, Met, 1960; Böhm, Met, 1963).

1960 – Antal Dorati – Studio – Decca;
George London, Leonie Rysanek, Giorgio Tozzi, Karl Liebl.
London’s only studio recording. In superb sound, but Dorati’s uninspired conducting leaves something to be desired. Rysanek is a beautiful Senta. Tozzi and Liebl are more than serviceable.

1960 – Franz Konwitschny – Studio, Berlin – Berlin Classics;
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Marianne Schech, Gottlob Frick, Rudolf Schock.
Fine early stereo, although in some of the more robustly orchestrated moments the brass blares rather unpleasantly. Konwitschny leads the orchestra of the Berliner Staatsoper like house on fire. The main attraction is, of course, Fischer-Dieskau’s subtle, intelligent and beautifully articulated Dutchman. Frick’s Daland is not to be missed, either. As a special bonus, you get Fritz Wunderlich and the finest Steersman’s Song on record.

1961 – Wolfgang Sawallisch – Live, Bayreuth – Philips, Decca;
Franz Crass, Anja Silja, Josef Greindl, Fritz Uhl.
I haven’t heard this one, but it has been praised by competent judges.

1968 – Otto Klemperer – Studio, London – EMI;
Theo Adam, Anja Silja, Martti Talvela, Ernst Kozub.
This is the Dresden version which, inexplicably, Klemperer preferred. So be prepared for various changes compared to other recordings, for example the omission of Senta’s theme from the end of the overture. To my mind, this recording has been praised a little too much, but I include it here because it is an interesting curiosity. You may prefer the live concert performance from the same year and with the same cast (except for Kozub who is replaced with James King) that has been issued on Hunt and Living Stage.

1971 – Karl Böhm – Live, Bayreuth – DG;
Thomas Stewart, Gwyneth Jones, Karl Ridderbusch, Hermin Essser.
Jones is often strained and Böhm is consistently dull, but for Stewart’s interpretation alone this is worth having. He presents an eloquent Dutchman with perfect diction, perhaps too restrained for some tastes, but nearly perfect for me.

1974 – Wolfgang Sawallisch – Studio, Munich – DG (DVD);
Donald McIntyre, Catarina Ligendza, Bengt Rundgren, Herman Winkler.
This film-opera could have been the definitive video version. McIntyre and Ligendza were the best Dutchman and Senta at the time. Both are vocally impeccable. But problems abound. The production, though pleasantly traditional, is marred by preposterous stage and video direction. It is difficult to say how much McIntyre and Ligendza are to blame themselves, but their acting leaves a great deal to be desired. It is hammy, exaggerated, and unintentionally hilarious. The camera work is atrocious! The whole thing feels stage-constrained and claustrophobic. It doesn’t convey an ounce of the opera’s grandeur. Last but not least, Sawallisch leads the orchestra as if he is about to fall asleep at the rostrum. What a wasted opportunity!

1976 – Georg Solti – Studio, Chicago – Decca;
Norman Bailey, Janis Martin, Marti Talvella, Rene Kollo.
Indifferent performance in stunning sound. Only for Solti or Bailey fans – or Holländer completists.

1983 – Herbert von Karajan – Studio, Berlin – EMI;
Jose van Dam, Dunja Vejzovic, Kurt Moll, Peter Hofmann.
One of Karajan’s most controversial recordings. Questionable choice of singers (Vejzovic is too wobbly, van Dam’s voice is too light for the part) and balance (the orchestra sometimes drowns out the singing). For me, this is one of the great what-might-have-beens of recording history. For sheer orchestral magnificence, Karajan is hard to equal, let alone surpass. He is supremely well recorded and, if you choose to believe, not lacking in drama at all. But Vejzovic is annoying and van Dam, in spite of his intelligently introverted interpretation, is unconvincing.

1985 – Woldemar Nelsson – Studio, Bayreuth – Philips (CD), DG (DVD)
Simon Estes, Lisbeth Balslev, Matti Salminen, Robert Schuk.
This video recording documents Harry Kupfer’s highly controversial Bayreuth production that presents the whole story as a dream in Senta’s head. The singing is no more than competent. The acting is as wooden as you can get. The staging is Kupfer’s typical see-how-original-I-am sensationalism. Amusing to watch, but hardly revealing.

1991 – Giuseppe Sinopoli – Studio, Berlin – DG;
Bernd Weikl, Cheryl Studer, Hans Sotin, Placido Domingo.
I haven’t heard this one, but judging from names on the cover, and to a lesser extent from reviews, it might be worth listening.

1994 – James Levine – Studio, New York – Sony;
James Morris, Deborah Voigt, Jan-Hendrik Rootering, Ben Heppner.
This recording has been lambasted more than it deserves. Morris is a moving Dutchman in fine voice. The rest of the cast is not quite on his level, but Voigt comes close. Levine is on the slow side, but he conducts not without certain dramatic intensity. The sound is crystal clear and with an excellent dynamic range, though a bit dry at places.
==================================================​

[1] See vol. 3, pp. 207-217 and 228. The “Remarks” are also available via the Wagner Library. As for the opinions on Mr Ellis’ work as a Wagnerian translator, Bernard Shaw praised it highly, but Bryan Magee said it made Wagner’s dense prose even more difficult to understand and Derrick Everett flatly called it “convoluted”. ( )
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0714539201, Paperback)

The English National Opera Guides were originally conceived in partnership with the English National Opera and edited by Nicholas John, the ENO's dramaturg, who died tragically in an accident in the Alps. Most of the guides are devoted to a single opera, which is described in detail—with many articles that cover its history and information about the composer and his times. The complete libretto is included in both the original language and in a modern singing translation—except where the opera was written in English. Each has a thematic guide to the most important musical themes in musical notation and each guide is lavishly illustrated. They also contain a bibliography and a discography which is updated at each reprint. The ENO guides are widely regarded as the best series of their kind and excellent value.

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