- Richard Wagner. Romantische Oper in three acts. 1841.
- Libretto by the composer, after Heinrich Heine’s Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski (From the Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelevopsky).
- First performance at the Königlich Sächsisches Hoftheater, Dresden, on 2nd January 1843.
|Daland, a Norwegian sea-captain
|Senta, his daughter
|Mary, her nurse
|Erik, a huntsman
|Steersman on Daland’s ship
The mysterious Dutchman is condemned to sail the seas with his ghostly crew until redeemed by the pure love of a woman. After a stormy overture Daland’s ship puts in to land, and a stranger ship puts in alongside, hailed by Daland’s steersman, but not answering his call or the invitations offered by the local people, who celebrate the return of their menfolk. The Dutchman himself, captain of the ghostly ship, allowed now, after seven more years, to land in his quest for release, asks Daland for hospitality, offering him rich reward and showing an interest in Senta, his daughter. In Daland’s house, where the women sit spinning, Senta has long been preoccupied by the story of the Dutchman and fascinated by his portrait. Erik, a huntsman, loves her and tells her his dream, in which he saw Daland bringing home a stranger. Senta, however, is still more preoccupied with her vision of the strange seafarer, whom her father now brings home. Senta’s love, it seems, will bring the Dutchman the redemption he seeks. He overhears Erik, however, reproaching Senta for her infidelity and resolves to leave her. As The Flying Dutchman sails out into the open sea, Senta, who has struggled free from Erik and those who seek to restrain her, leaps from the cliff in a pure act of love. The Dutchman’s ship and crew sink at once in the waves, and he and Senta are seen united for ever.
Wagner’s opera makes use of several leading motifs, a principle of which he made much greater use in his later music-dramas. Here the Dutchman himself is represented by the striking horn-call heard first in the overture, with its stormy string-writing. Part of the music of Senta’s second-act ballad is heard, her story of the Dutchman, a motif that represents her, and there are other elements that reappear as the story unfolds. The overture itself, in many ways a summary of the action, is an impressive concert piece. Vocal excerpts include the Dutchman’s Die Frist ist um (The time is here) and the Steersman’s song Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer (In thunder and storm from the far sea). The second act starts with the women spinning in Daland’s house, singing their lilting spinning-song Summ und Brumm (Hum and sing), echoing the sound of their work. Senta’s moving ballad follows. Choruses include the well-known Steuermann, lass die Wacht (Steersman, leave the watch).