Bag pheasants, cue Dutchman for Wagner time in Hungary

Tue Jan 22, 2013 6:54am EST
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(Advisory: This story contains profanity in paragraph eight.)

By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Only in Hungary would you see two hunters in full field regalia, with peaked hats, stride proudly into the backstage coffee house of the National Opera House one day with a brace of pheasants and find those birds on stage the next.

The gorgeous, preserved birds were attached to the hunter Georg's belt for a rip-roaring production of the original 1841 version of Wagner's sea-faring tale of damnation, love and salvation "The Flying Dutchman".

They were just one example of the attention to detail that made for an exhilarating evening - every bit worth the seven years' wait the Dutchman and his crew are condemned to sail the seven seas before he can come ashore and seek salvation in the love of a woman.

For a mostly sold-out run that had its premiere on January 19 and ends on February 2, the Opera House has brought in two casts.

On opening night Hungarian soprano Gyongyi Lukacs as Senta, German baritone Thomas Gazheli as the Dutchman and Hungarian tenor Attila Fekete as the jilted huntsman Georg made a magnificent threesome, with Austrian conductor Ralf Weikert keeping the musical seas roiling in the pit.

The Flying Dutchman was a midway point in the composing career of Wagner, whose birth bicentenary is being celebrated throughout the world this year.

Already though, it demonstrates a trait of the diminutive composer who was a big womanizer that Hungarian director Janos Szikora thinks is even more characteristic and important for understanding Wagner than his notorious anti-Semitism or the admiration of Adolf Hitler.   Continued...