SOME seasons Richard Wagner seems to rule the roost at the Metropolitan Opera, but this year you might miss him altogether if you blinked.
No ``Ring'' cycle, no ``Tristan,'' no ``Parsifal,'' not even a return of last season's new ``Meistersinger.''
Just four performances of ``The Flying Dutchman,'' an early work that spends a mere 2-1/2 hours accomplishing what Wagner later learned to spin out over four or five hours of soul-enrapturing music.
Granted, it's 2-1/2 hours without intermission, which qualified it as a feat beyond endurance for a few dozen of the nearly 4,000 people in the audience at the March 30 opening.
Those who stayed for the whole show heard a gripping performance, despite some rough singing from the leads - bass James Morris as the title character, condemned to sail the seas eternally, and soprano Hildegard Behrens as Senta, the maiden whose love redeems him at last.
Their long duet in Act 2 was the night's dramatic highlight, the creepy intensity of their acting more than making up for the occasional barking (his) and shrieking (hers). The Dutchman's haunted longing and Senta's lethal infatuation came vividly to life on the darkened stage.
Next to them, the other characters paled. As Daland, Senta's father who is too eager to cash in on the Dutchman's promises of wealth, bass Jan-Hendrik Rootering sang pleasantly but lacked power in the climaxes. Tenor Klaus Koenig made his debut as Senta's spurned suitor Erik, singing with a slightly muffled sound except for some ringing high notes.
Conductor Herman Michael, who led a ragged revival of Beethoven's ``Fidelio'' last fall, did better this time out. Some instrumental playing was sloppy, but he shaped the scenes with a keen sense of pace.
August Everding's production, new in 1989, remains notable for its imposing ghost ship complete with hydraulically operated gangplank.
Billboard's top classical recordings
Here are the weekly charts for the nation's best-selling classical music albums as they appear in next week's issue of Billboard magazine:
1. ``Chant,'' Benedictine Monks (Angel)
2. ``The Piano,'' Michael Nyman (Virgin)
3. ``Schindler's List,'' Williams, Perlman (MCA)
4. ``Gershwin Plays Gershwin,'' George Gershwin (Nonesuch)
5. ``In Concert,'' Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti (London) (Platinum)
6. ``Romantic Classics,'' various artists (Madacy)
7. ``My Hearts Delight,'' Pavarotti (London)
8. ``Rachmaninoff Concerto No. 2,'' Van Cliburn (RCA)
9. ``Vivaldi: The Four Seasons,'' various artists (Infinity)
10. ``Chopin: Romantic Piano,'' various artists (Infinity Digital)
11. ``Baroque Festival,'' various artists (Infinity Digital)
12. ``Mozart,'' various artists (Infinity Digital)
* Reprinted with permission, COPYRIGHT 1994 Billboard