Der fliegende Hollander is an early work by Richard Wagner, and thus an excellent 'entrance ticket' for operaphilles unfamiliar with this great composer's works.
I did not obtain my entry ticket to Wagner with this opera, but with the Ring Cycle.
Stylistically this early work is more akin to Lohengrin than the Ring, for sure. It is also one of the shortest of Wagner's operas, but it is a brilliant work from the Vorspiel right to the very end.
As other lead reviewers have already so succintly pointed out, HvK recorded an orchestra-dominated piece here. Certainly Der fliegende Hollander contains wonderful orchestrations and ensembles. The very Vorspiel is a tremendously vivid and dramatic piece of work that finds great favour with concert conductors. This recording, with the BPO, offers one of the most ear-ringing renditions of this marvellous piece.
Having said that, the sadder news are that as the opera progresses, the drama gradually got dimmer and dimmer, beginning from the still distinctive ode of the steersman, we hear less and less drama in the vocalists' performances, and regrettably the highly eerie and tragic entrance of the Hollander is not nearly as dramatic an event as would have been in the cases of several other top recordings.
I have to agree with other reviewers on the generally even but nearly always average vocal performance. The accoustics did not help a single bit.
It often happened with HvK in the early 1980's - he seemed to have focused much more on orchestration than the vocal outputs, both in terms of quality and volume. His ditigal 'Die Zauberflote', his 'Turandot', to name just two of the glaring examples of such technical imbalance between orchestra and soloists.
The choruses, however, fared much better, for HvK was able to maintain a beautiful sound balance between the male and female choruses and the orchestra. The soloists fared much worse.
The soloists are not so favoured, alas. In the titlerole, the great Jose van Dam gave an expert but immemorable performance. So is the great Kurt Moll. Vejzovic's Senta is no comparison with Behrens (for von Dohnanyi), and Peter Hofmann's Erik is serviceable.
Of course, there remains Wagner's great orchestration, and as the late Fischer-Dieskau once said, singers are often privileged in being allowed to accompany the orchestra in Wagner.
So be it.