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Last but certainly not least, another extraordinary performance happens at the Vienna Opera this season (2004/5). What is generally considered to be the currently best cast of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman will be performing, several times, during the upcoming season in Vienna. Unfortunately they will not be on stage the same evenings but at least it will be possible to see them. This includes the exceptionally beautiful and vocally powerful Swedish soprano Nina Stemme as Senta, the US-trained German baritone Franz Grundheber, a Kammersänger whose dramatic stage presence turns the Flying Dutchman into a hero who is very hard to resist, and Torsten Kerl who is rapidly establishing himself as a first rate singer without whom the opera world would be that much poorer. Grundheber's name is almost synonymous with the Flying Dutchman, for he knows like no other how to bring out the tragic aspects of the character. When he had done this role before with Hildegard Behrens, critics wrote of the new dream couple of opera but the romantic tension that exists in the pairing of Stemme/Grundheber is so utterly credible and moving that in the opinion of many this is currently the best 'Dutchman' couple on offer.

Nina Stemme. Photo: Vienna State Opera
Nina Stemme. Photo: Vienna State Opera

Stemme only made her Vienna début as Senta in December 2003 but she took the audience's hearts at once, by storm. She is now in Vienna for the season and has previously sung at the Royal Opera in Stockholm and in Italy. Her international career started when she had won the Cardiff Singer of the World First Prize and also the Placido Domingo singing competition and had subsequently been called to all of the world's most important opera stages, such as Salzburg, the Met, Paris, Bayreuth and San Francisco. This season in Vienna, Grundheber will again charm audiences as Wagner's Dutchman, but without the delightful Stemme as his Senta. Scheduling problems precluded them from appearing together and so Stemme sings a few months earlier in the same opera, but without Grundheber. Until May, Grundheber is singing Tosca in Vienna and then, 10-14 May 2005, appears in two performances of The Flying Dutchman, while Stemme's Dutchman will be Falk Struckmann.

Franz Grundheber. Photo: Salzburg Festival
Franz Grundheber. Photo: Salzburg Festival

Also at the Vienna Opera, Rolando Villazon, the Mexican tenor who is currently everyone's darling, will be singing Gounod's Romeo and Juliette in the new season. And, if all goes according to plan, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo will take to the stage, as Dulcamara in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. And the Archangel is in good company, for joining him in L'elisir is Anna Netrebko.

Ildebrando d'Arcangelo. Photo: Vienna State Opera
Ildebrando d'Arcangelo. Photo: Vienna State Opera

So, Austria is well worth a trip or two for opera enthusiasts in the upcoming season. The website of the Vienna Opera contains details of performances for the 2004/5 season, plus information on prices and ticket availability.

Copyright © 14 October 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany

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VIENNA STATE OPERA

THE SALZBURG FESTIVAL

AMERICAN FRIENDS OF THE SALZBURG FESTIVAL

ANNA NETREBKO

ILDEBRANDO D'ARCANGELO

ROLANDO VILLAZON

BERNHARD FLEISCHER MOVING IMAGES

RUDOLF BUDJA GALERIE

KATHOLNIGG

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