Countless legends revolve around the figure of the immortal Flying Dutchman, who can only find peace when a devoted woman remains true to him unto death. Senta, who contemplates a dismal future in her home village as a wife and mother, believes herself ordained to break the curse. Or does she simply hope that the stranger can free her from the confines of her life? Premiered in Dresden in 1843, »The Flying Dutchman« is Richard Wagner’s first Romantic opera. The composer was inspired by the tradition of supernatural operas, a genre founded by Carl Maria von Weber’s »Der Freischütz«, in which natural forces are demonized to reflect the inner turmoil of the characters. In »The Flying Dutchman«, however, Wagner tentatively did away with the usual structure of aria and recitative, moving towards a through-composed opera, a new form which he perfected in his subsequent music dramas. In particular, Wagner’s libretto shows real innovation in the psychological depth of the Dutchman and Senta. In her staging, director Florentine Klepper uses this aspect to present the viewpoint of Senta, adopting a magical and dreamlike narrative to tell of her emancipation from her father, her fiancée and from suffocating social conventions.
Shortly before reaching home, the sailor Daland is caught in a storm with his
crew and decides to wait on the shore for the storm to abate. He tells his men
to go to sleep. Only the steersman is to keep watch but falls asleep before
long. A man appears. It is the Flying Dutchman, called so because ages ago he
wanted to sail round a cape by all means despite adverse winds and, on the
brink of failure, swore not to abandon his plan in all eternity. Since that
time he has been doomed to wander around the sea till the end of time. There is
only one chance for him to escape that fate: once in seven years he is allowed
to go ashore to find a wife who remains absolutely faithful to him. This time
has now come again. Daland discovers the Dutchman, talks with him and tells him
that he has a daughter named Senta. The Dutchman wants Senta for his wife, asks
Daland’s hospitality and promises to reward him with treasures never seen before.
Before long the two men have come to terms. The storm has ceased, Daland
returns home, the Dutchman follows him.
Senta is unlike the other girls in the village. While their aim is durable
wedded happiness, Senta has from childhood been fascinated with the story of
the Flying Dutchman which she heard time and again from her wet-nurse, Mary. Erik,
a hunter, has long been in love with Senta. Having noticed that Daland has returned,
he urges Senta to beg her father to approve of their marriage. However, Senta is
like obsessed by the Dutchman’s lot. To warn her, Erik retells a dream in which
she meets a foreign sailor. Sentas, on the other hand, understands this dream
as an omen that her wish to release the Dutchman will come true. Daland
introduces Senta and the Dutchman to each other. They both fall to each other instantly.
The Dutchman finds it hard to believe that Senta is actually willing to marry him,
but she swears she will be faithful to him till death. They are interrupted by
Daland, who wants to celebrate Senta’s betrothal with the Dutchman.
The seamen’s return and the announcement of the betrothal occasion a feast
which gets out of control. Erik calls Senta to account and calls their shared
experiences to her mind. The Dutchman overhears their conversation and is now
convinced that Senta is not capable of fidelity. He turns to leave. Senta
proves that she keeps her promise.
Sächsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden
Choir of the Theodore Gouvy Gesellschaft
Generously supported by the Stiftung Semperoper – Förderstiftung