When to see it
The Flying Dutchman has been cursed for eternity. Once every seven years he is allowed to come ashore to seek redemption. He may have found it in Senta, a woman who longs for escape from her dreary life.
Senta accepts the Dutchman's offer of marriage. But the Dutchman wrongly suspects her of unfaithfulness. Thinking he's protecting her, he leaves to resume his endless voyaging. Senta is left alone.
Shortly before the premiere of Der fliegende Holländer in Dresden, Wagner had returned from a deeply unsuccessful two-year stint in Paris. He had gone there to make his fortune, but found his way barred by a strict class-based system. One of the bitterest blows came when Léon Pillet, director of the Paris Opéra, accepted his libretto for Der fliegende Holländer – but then commissioned a score not from Wagner but from French composer Pierre-Louis Dietsch. But the Dresden premieres of first Rienzi in October 1842 and Der fliegende Holländer in January 1843 were immense successes, and marked the beginning of Wagner's career as one of the greatest operatic composers.
Tim Albery's Olivier-nominated production for The Royal Opera delves deep into the psychology of Wagner's cursed wanderer and his beloved Senta, detailing the monomania and uncompromising idealism that finally drives them apart. Michael Levine's elemental single set is dominated by a rolling metal hull that represents the Dutchman's phantom ship, the poverty of Senta's home and the treacherous sea.
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Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), WWV 63, is a German language opera, with libretto and music by Richard Wagner.Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write the opera following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839. In his 1843 Autobiographic Sketch, Wagner acknowledged he had taken the story from Heinrich Heine's retelling of the legend in his 1833 satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski). The central theme is redemption through love.Wagner conducted the premiere at the Semper Oper in Dresden in 1843. This work shows early attempts at operatic styles that would characterise his later music dramas. In Der fliegende Holländer Wagner uses a number of leitmotifs (literally, "leading motifs") associated with the characters and themes. The leitmotifs are all introduced in the overture, which begins with a well-known ocean or storm motif before moving into the Dutchman and Senta motifs.Wagner originally wrote the work to be performed without intermission – an example of his efforts to break with tradition – and, while today's opera houses sometimes still follow this directive, it is also performed in a three-act version.