Senta is a rural Pennsylvania woman who connects to the outside world solely through alt-right websites. The Dutchman is the white supremacist who becomes the object of her romantic obsessions. This Flying Dutchman concept — the work of director and scenographer Shannon Knox, associate director Micaela Tobin, lighting designer Becky Heisler and technical director Gabrielle Heerschap — is intended as a “horror machine” reflecting contemporary American culture. The team’s designs are now on exhibit at the National Opera Center as part of OA’s Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Showcase.
The main set element is a glass cube surrounding a couch. Here, Senta sits with her laptop, isolated from all other characters for nearly the entire duration of the opera. Instead of the roiling sea, she is surrounded by violent political rallies. The Act II spinning chorus is entirely virtual: projections of women who sing as they use Twitter, Pinterest, Skype and Facebook. The Dutchman’s crew, on the other hand, is very much present: a squad of militaristic thugs toting guns and wearing white and red uniforms.
The exhibition is the second of three from the 2017 round of the Director- Designer Showcase, a biennial program supported by the Tobin Theatre Arts Fund. It runs through this fall, when the third and final team’s production, a different view of Dutchman, takes its place. The artists’ presentations at Opera Conference 2017 are available on OPERA America’s YouTube channel.