The Flying Dutchman
(Der Fliegende Holländer)
by Richard Wagner
Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Germany
First Performance: January 2, 1843, Hofoper, Dresden
The concept used in The Flying Dutchman has been used in tales since the
time of Homer.
Daring navigators of Holland, before the British took over the seas and many
told and retold the tale of a Dutch skipper condemned to sail the stormy
the Cape of Good Hope. This was their life, folklore of storms and the sea.
In Wagner's version of the tale, the infuriated skipper swore at a raging
"Never will I give up!" Satan heard him and condemned him to roam the
stormy seas forever
without rest or peace. Once every seven years he could leave his ship to
search for a wife who,
by being true to him for life, would redeem him and release him from the
At the end of a seven-year period The Flying Dutchman
in his ghostly ship seeks shelter in a port and is dashed
against the vessel of Norwegian navigator, Daland,
who is returning to his home. He steps ashore and in an aria
bewails his curse. He and Daland meet.
When the Dutchman learns that Daland has a daughter,
he asks for her hand in marriage. Both sail on to Daland's home port.
At Daland's home his daughter, Senta, gazes at the Dutchman
with adoration. He says quietly that she is the woman he has seen
in his dreams. Senta has long admired a picture of the legendary
Dutchman hanging on the wall in her home.
Her friends have teased her for gazing at the picture
when she could have Erik, who has sought her favor.
She is fond of Erik, but she dreams of the man in the portrait
and sings his sad story to her friends, praying with burning intensity
to be the one who saves him. Her friends are horrified. Erik enters
after the friends leave and asks Senta to plead with her father for him.
When he realizes her heart is committed to the Dutchman he rushes away.
The Dutchman appears and tells Senta his sad story.
She vows to be faithful to him unto death and her father blesses them.
The villagers are at the harbor celebrating the sailors' return.
Senta rushes in, pursued by Erik, who is insisting that Senta has pledged
herself to him. The Dutchman hears Erik and believes himself rejected.
He rushes aboard his ship.
Senta cries after him,
"I am here, true to you even unto death!"
Escaping from her father and Erik, Senta rushes to the cliffs
and leaps into the sea below.
As sunrise begins to glow on the horizon, Senta and the Dutchman
are seen in an embrace as they rise together toward the Heavens.