Countless legends tell of the Flying Dutchman, the lonely figure cursed to roam the seas forever, who can only find rest through a woman’s undying love. Senta, destined for a dreary existence as a housewife and mother in her home village, thinks she has been chosen to break the curse. Or does she hope that the stranger can rescue her from the strict confines of her life? Premiered in Dresden in 1843, »The Flying Dutchman« was Richard Wagner’s first romantic opera. In his staging, Florentine Klepper takes Senta’s point of view, telling in magical, dreamlike episodes of the young woman’s emancipation from her father and her fiancé as well as the social conventions that are suffocating her.
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.