Der fliegende Holländer, Opera by R. Wagner
Richard Wagner's early masterpiece Der fliegende Holländer clearly displays the roots of his distinctive compositional style. Leitmotifs and avant-garde orchestration techniques made sure the premiere at the Königliches Hoftheater in Dresden on 2 January 1843 was a memorable, resounding success. With this opera, Wagner laid down the initial firm foundation of his compositional vocabulary, and he would continue expanding and refining it over the coming decades. On the stage of Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice, the imposing ghost ship will drop anchor again this season.
The creative origins of Der fliegende Holländer go back to a difficult period in Wagner’s life. A particularly tumultuous boat passage from Riga to London in the summer of 1839 triggered the composer’s fearful respect of nature and the elements. The terrifying voyage still fresh in his mind, Wagner composed a libretto based on Heinrich Heine's depiction of an old sea legend in his book From the Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski. The score he composed was a perfect match in both intensity and impressiveness. It would be the first of many Wagnerian works where music has the power to narrate virtually on its own.
In Der fliegende Holländer, or The Flying Dutchman in English, a ghost ship is condemned to navigate stormy waters until the end of time. There is a single chance for its captain to find salvation: once every seven years, he can drift ashore and attempt to earn the true love of a woman. If she were true, the spell would be broken. The Dutchman approaches Captain Daland, the father of the beautiful Senta, and asks for her hand in marriage in exchange for a handsome dowry. Daland is blinded by the sheen of gold and quickly agrees. When the Dutchman arrives, Senta, her girlfriends, and even her old flame Erik already have a premonition about what is about to unfold. The newly minted pair seem to be in love indeed, but whether this will be enough to undo the black magic over the Dutchman remains to be seen – this season at Gran Teatro La Fenice.