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Senta is sort of a geek who experiences the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy, isn’t she? She’s this strange young woman who is obsessed with something all her peers find weird and silly – and then it comes true!
Catherine Naglestad’s performance here is really excellent. She’s not my favorite soprano ever in terms of sound alone, but I have yet to run across a performance of hers that isn’t interesting. And this one is more than just interesting. Senta is not a child. She gives herself over entirely to what happens – there’s no detachment here – but she’s fully aware of what she is doing, and of the limitations of the people around her. Her reactions to her father’s news of ‘hey! there’s this rich fellow you ought to marry!’ and much later, to Erik’s last pleas to her to remember all the things he is sure she promised him, indicate quite clearly that while this woman is a little weird, she doesn’t live her entire life in a dream. There’s a little bit of grown-up impatience and cynicism there too.
And the singing itself is very exciting. Her first notes in the spinning scene in Act II – it’s as if they come from somewhere else. It’s great. The ballad (it begins at 8.17) during which Senta tells the story of the Dutchman is big and intense during the narrative parts, and the softer interludes, e.g. beginning at 12.28, retain the intensity, but with a lovely shimmery sound that is both very atmospheric and completely apt.
Juha Uusitalo as the Dutchman is also great – one of my favorite parts of this was his and Senta’s scene together in Act II:
On the whole, then, I really enjoyed this performance. The effect of the concept is to strip away some of the specifics of the setting and turn the opera into a story about human longing – the Dutchman’s for a home and a place to rest, and Senta’s for something bigger and deeper (the ocean: good metaphor for this feeling!) than her life as she has experienced it thus far. It gives one pause to consider that the solution to such feelings is evidently death – but this is Wagner, after all.