For a small opera company like Opera Roanoke, staging one of German composer Richard Wagner’s epics might seem like a tall order.
After all, the Metropolitan Opera in New York spent more than $16 million to bring a new version of Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelung” cycle of operas to its stage.
While Opera Roanoke doesn’t have access to that level of funding, the nonprofit has had a run of good financial luck that’s laid groundwork for its first attempt in its 36-year history at staging a full-blown Wagner opera.
In the past three years the opera has conducted a successful campaign to match $250,000 in funds offered by an anonymous donor and received a total of $200,000 in grant funding from a two-year program founded by philanthropists Nick and Jenny Taubman.
In 2009, budget cuts forced the opera to resort to concerts instead of fully staged shows. Opera Roanoke’s revival of the fully staged operas in 2011 was well received — productions of “Madama Butterfly,” “Il Trovatore” and “Carmen” all sold out.
Scott Williamson, the nonprofit’s general and artistic director, said there are Wagner fans from as far away as New York coming to see the show.
In raising the mast on “The Flying Dutchman,” it helps that the opera’s nowhere near as long or complex as Wagner’s later works. Considered the revolutionary composer’s first masterpiece, there is some challenging stagecraft, such as simulating the cabin interiors of two ships.