Martin Kušej’s production of Der fliegender Holländer for De Nederlandse Opera recorded in 2010 is high concept and it’s worth looking at the interviews with the cast and conductor before watching the main event. Certainly the essay in the booklet will do little to prepare you. For Kušej, Daland’s ship is a cruise ship or pleasure yacht full of expensively dressed partygoers. The Dutchman’s “crew” are refugees or desperate economic migrants. The Dutchman himself has made his pile in human trafficking. The framework of the “outsiders” wanting a share of the “insiders'” goodies is the backdrop for the interpersonal drama of Senta, the Dutchman and Erik.
Monteverdi’s Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda must be, at twenty two minutes, one of the shortest operas around. In typical Monterverdi style though it crams a lot of music and emotion into a very short space. Based on a story by Torquato Tasso, it concerns a Christian knight, Tancredi, and a Moorish princess, Clorinda. Somehow they have managed to fall in love but are still fighting on opposite sides They meet on the battlefield but as each has their visor down they don’t recognize each other. They fight a long and bloody single combat in which Tancredi mortally wounds Clorinda. When their helmets are removed they recognize each other and Clorinda asks Tancredi to baptize her so they can be united in heaven. It’s pretty dodgy theology but great theatre.