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Soprano Kathleen Parker as the heroine is the undeniable star of the Singaporean production of The Flying Dutchman.

Flying Dutchman soars

Oct 28, 2016 5:50 AM

DRAMATIC soprano Kathleen Parker is a relative unknown on the world opera scene. But here's predicting her star will rise confidently as her vocals did at Tuesday's staging of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman.

The fresh-faced Australian singer is the undeniable star of this local production presented by Richard Wagner Association (Singapore) and co-produced by OperaViva in association with The Finger Players.

Directed by Chong Tze Chien and Glen Goei, she exudes strength and emotional delicacy in the role of Senta, a woman obsessed with a mythical undead mariner who, as luck would have it, appears at her door to make her his bride.

Wagner began writing the opera in his 20s after a difficult sea journey from the Baltic port of Pillau to London. And it shows in the thrilling music that grabs you and doesn't let go for more than two hours and 20 minutes without intermission.

Though Wagner had originally set the story in Scotland, only to change it to Norway just before its 1843 premiere, Chong and Goei have relocated the action to South-east Asia. This gives the opera an instantaneously relatable visual dimension: set and lighting by Wong Chee Wai and Lim Woan Wen, and costumes by Max Tan and Yuan Zhiying, are inspired by the iconography, ambience and colours of the kampung.

Other familiar touches appear in the form of wayang kulit-style shadow puppetry that augments the story and music in a tasteful, uncluttered way that's never extraneous.

Besides Parker, Oleksandr Pushniak also impresses in the role of the Dutchman, while Andreas Hoerl as Senta's father lends stellar support. The roles of Mary and the Steersman are played by Singaporean contralto Candice de Rozario and tenor Jonathan Tay. The onstage and offstage chorus is small but effective.

Kudos must be given to the Orchestra of the Singapore International Festival of Music conducted by Darrell Ang, for its splendid playing added another reason for why this is one of the best opera productions in Singapore in recent memory.

  • The Flying Dutchman runs at the Victoria Theatre on Oct 28 and 30 at 7.30pm. Tickets from Sistic