Music and Libretto by Richard Wagner
October 6, 8, 12, 14, 2011, at 8 pm
Matinée October 16 at 2:30 pm
At the Royal Theatre, Victoria, BC
In German with English surtitles
Above: Adam Sawatsky of CTV Vancouver Island interviews John Fanning and Joni Henson.
A spectral ship with black masts and blood red sails, a phantom crew, a cursed seafarer on an endless voyage – here is the most haunting of all legends of the sea. In punishment for blasphemy, a captain is doomed to wander the oceans till the end of time. Rest, refuge, even the peace of death are barred to him unless he finds a woman who will love him until death. Every seven years he makes landfall in his desperate, weary search . . . and finally finds Senta, a girl who longs to save him.
Dutchman is gloriously romantic, evoking the wild splendour of the Norwegian fiords, giving a voice to the sea, and bringing to life characters as sharply drawn as the lusty, testosterone-fuelled sailors, the obsessively dreaming Senta, her acquisitive father, and the brooding, flawed, nameless hero.
With music as tempestuous and elemental as the sea, Dutchman is the work that marked Wagner as a monumental force in opera.
The salty tang of the wild north seas and the stormy wind of desperate love.
Timothy Vernon, conductor
Follow the links for photos, biographies, and reviews.
The opera opens in the bay of Sandwike where Daland's ship has taken refuge a few miles from his home. As a storm rages , and Daland's crew sleeps, a second ship with blood-red sails and black masts, casts anchor and its Captain – the Dutchman – steps ashore. We learn that he has been condemned to sail the seas forever, but every seven years he is cast ashore to search for a faithful wife whose love will save him. He craves either redemption or annihilation.
When the two Captains meet, the Dutchman offers Daland a chest of treasure in return for a night's lodging in his home. When he learns Daland has a daughter, the Dutchman offers to marry her before he so much as meets her. Her father , dazzled by the wealth of the stranger, agrees immediately to give him my most precious possession, my comfort in sorrow, my joy in happiness.
In a rough factory building near the harbor, a group of women are found working – turning huge wheels in order to make rope. Supervised by Mary they all sing as they labour – save for Senta, Daland's daughter, who gazes intently at an illustration of the legendary Flying Dutchman. When Mary scolds her for her idleness, Senta recounts the legend of the Dutchman and shocks everyone by announcing that she longs to be the one whose love will save him.
Senta's suitor Erik, who overhears this declaration, announces that Daland's ship is approaching. He begs Senta to persuade her father to let them marry, despite his obvious poverty. But Senta's thoughts are still fixed on the Dutchman and he leaves in despair.
Daland enters with the stranger and tells Senta of the riches in store if she will agree to marry him. Senta recognizes the Dutchman from his portrait and agrees unreservedly to be faithful to him till death.
The traditional homecoming feast is set up in the harbour, where both ships lie at anchor. The Dutchman's ship is eerily silent while the Norwegian sailors dance and sing surrounded by the village women who set up food for the celebration. Their offer to share with the Dutchman's crew is met at first with silence. Then the sea around the Dutchman's ship becomes violent though everything else remains calm, and the Dutchman's crew begin to sing, mocking their captain's efforts to find love and redemption. The Norwegians try to drown out the sound of the phantom crew with their own song but finally flee.
Distraught that Senta has agreed to marry the Dutchman, Erik reminds her that she had pledged her love to him. The Dutchman overhears them and, convinced that Senta is unfaithful, orders his crew to set sail. As he sails away, Senta cries out that she is true to him till death and throws herself into the sea. At that moment the Dutchman's ship sinks and the Dutchman and Senta are seen embracing, ascending toward heaven.
The Flying Dutchman
Libretto of The Flying Dutchman
Libretto of Der fliegende Holländer
Vocal Score of the Opera
In German and in English
From the Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski
Chapter 7 of the novel by Heinrich Heine, in which the narrator Herr von Schnabelewopski recounts the story of the Flying Dutchman. Wagner's opera Der fliegende Holländer uses many details from Heine's version of the myth.
Richard Wagner's autobiography Mein Leben, translated into English and published as an E-book from Project Gutenberg. One commentator noted, This book, which was dictated over a period of 15 years, mixes fact with fiction with breathtaking virtuosity, so that one can never quite be sure where the one starts and the other stops, or to what extent Wagner was himself aware of the merging of the two.
Volume 1, 1813 to 1850
This includes Wagner's account of his escape from Riga and the sea voyage that inspired much of the flavour of the music of The Flying Dutchman.
A wide-ranging list of links to web sites about Wagner and his operas, including comprehensive sites about Wagner, biographies, articles, and some of Wagner's books and letters.