The Flying Dutchman
In his youth, Wagner created his fastest moving and perhaps his most effective score. The Flying
Dutchman is an ideal introduction to Wagner. It’s the easiest to listen to and it has real melodies that
convey the ancient legend of the immortal Dutchman, which culminates with this opera. As the legend
goes, a ship’s captain is cursed to live until he can find someone who will love him until death. On this
unique day he meets Senta, who has been obsessed with his legend from childhood. However, in the
legend, she must die to free him from eternal life on earth, which has become a living hell. It is a brilliant
story with one of the most compelling roles in all of opera, and it’s Wagner!
On his homeward journey, the sea captain Daland is compelled by stormy weather to seek a port of refuge near Sandwike in southern Norway. He leaves the helmsman on watch and he and the sailors retire. (Song of the helmsman: “Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer” – “With tempest and storm on distant seas.”) The helmsman falls asleep. A ghostly vessel appearing astern is dashed against Daland’s vessel by the sea and the grappling irons hold the two ships together. Invisible hands furl the sails. A man of pale aspect, dressed in black, his face framed by a thick black beard, steps ashore. He laments his fate. (Aria: “Die Frist ist um, und abermals verstrichen sind sieben Jahr” – “The time has come and seven years have again elapsed”) Because he once invoked Satan, the ghost captain is cursed to roam the sea forever without rest. An angel brought to him the terms of his redemption: every seven years the waves will cast him upon the shore; if he can find a wife who will be true to him he will be released from his curse.
Daland wakes up and meets the stranger. The stranger hears that Daland has an unmarried daughter named Senta, and he asks for her hand in marriage, offering a chest of treasure as a gift. Tempted by gold, Daland agrees to the marriage. The southwind blows and both vessels set sail for Daland’s home.
A group of local girls are singing and spinning in Daland’s house. (Spinning chorus: “Summ und brumm, du gutes Rädchen” – “Whir and whirl, good wheel”) Senta, Daland’s daughter, dreamily gazes upon a gorgeous picture of the legendary Dutchman that hangs from the wall; she desires to save him. Against the will of her nurse, she sings to her friends the story of the Dutchman (Ballad with the Leitmotiv), how Satan heard him swear and took him at his word. She vows to save him by her fidelity.
The huntsman Erik, Senta’s former boyfriend, arrives and hears her; the girls depart, and the huntsman, who loves the maiden, warns her, telling her of his dream, in which Daland returned with a mysterious stranger, who carried her off to sea. She listens with delight, and Erik leaves in despair.
Daland arrives with the stranger; he and Senta stand gazing at each other in silence. Daland is scarcely noticed by his daughter, even when he presents his guest as her betrothed. In the following duet, which closes the act, Senta swears to be true till death.
Later in the evening, the local girls bring Daland’s men food and drink. They invite the crew of the strange vessel to join in the merry-making, but in vain. The girls retire in wonder; ghostly forms appear at work upon the vessel The Flying Dutchman, and Daland’s men retreat in fear.
Senta arrives, followed by Erik, who reproves her for deserting him, as she had formerly loved him and vowed constancy. When the stranger, who has been listening, hears these words, he is overwhelmed with despair, as he thinks he is now forever lost. He summons his men, tells Senta of the curse, and to the consternation of Daland and his crew declares that he is the “Flying Dutchman”.
As the Dutchman sets sail, Senta throws herself into the sea, claiming that she will be faithful to him unto death. This is his salvation. The spectral ship disappears, and Senta and the Dutchman are seen ascending to heaven.
Synopsis courtesy of Wikipedia
Introduction to Opera
At 6:30 before evening performances and at 1:30 before matinees, a free talk will be presented in the California Theatre that will acquaint you with the composer’s life, his place in the history of opera, the story and its characters. If you are attending the 1:30 or 6:30 Introduction, you must be ticketed for that day’s performance; and your ticket must be torn as you enter the building.
MLK Library Previews
A one-hour preview for each 2017-18 production is presented free of charge in the Beethoven Center, located on the 5th Floor of the Dr. MLK Library in San Jose (located at the corner of Fourth and San Fernando Streets). Moderated by GD Larry Hancock, the preview includes a lecture and performances by OSJ artists. Dates for previews are as follows:
- Così fan tutte: August 29, 2017
- La rondine: October 31, 2017
- The Flying Dutchman: January 30, 2018
- La traviata: April 3, 2018
All previews begin at 12 noon.
Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series
Increase your understanding of opera and enjoy upcoming Opera San José performances all the more by attending one of longtime OSJ subscriber Bradford Wade’s FREE previews. Dates for Così fan tutte lecture talks will be announced in August 2017. For more information about the Opera at Your Doorstep Lecture Series and/or to RSVP, email OperaAtYourDoorstep@gmail.com.
Performances of The Flying Dutchman are made possible, in part, by a grant from the City of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs.