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Senta
19 Jun 2006

WAGNER: Der fliegende Holländer

Der fliegende Holländer. Romantic opera in 3 acts.

Music composed by Richard Wagner. Libretto by the composer.

Richard Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Hans Hotter (Holländer), Helene Werth (Senta), Bernd Aldenhoff (Erik), Kurth Böhme (Daland), Helmut Krebs (Steuermann), Res Fischer (Mary), Chor und Sinfonieorchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks, Wilhelm Schüchter (cond.)
Live recording, 1951, Hamburg.

 

First Performance: 2 January 1843, Königlich Sächsisches Hoftheater, Dresden.

Principal Characters
Daland, a Norwegian seafarer Bass
Senta, his daughter Soprano
Erik, a hunter Tenor
Mary, Senta's nurse Alto
Der Steuermann (Helmsman) Tenor
Der Holländer (Dutchman) Baritone

Setting: A village on the Norwegian coast, c. 1650.

Act I

The vessel of the Norwegian merchant Daland has run into a severe storm shortly before reaching harbour and drops anchor in the little cove of Sandwike on the Norwegian coast. Daland decides to wait for the storm to abate and sends the crew to get some rest. Only the steersman is left to keep watch on deck. He, however, is also soon overcome by sleep and does not notice the mysterious things which are happening around him.

A second ship approaches. The captain goes ashore. It is the Flying Dutchman, who bemoans his fate: he had once wanted to sail around a cape in a furious gale and sworn that he would accomplish this feat even if he had to keep on sailing forever. The devil took him at his word and condemned him to sail the sea until Judgement Day. The only hope he has of being saved from this terrible fate is if an angel were to intercede for him: every seven years the Dutchman can go ashore. If he manages to find a woman who will redeem him by promising to love him forever, the curse will be broken and he will be able to die.

Daland discovers the strange vessel and its captain. The Dutchman asks him if he might be his guest for a while. The merchant is happy to agree when he learns of the treasures this mysterious man offers him in return. He is also willing to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the Dutchman when the latter asks his permission to woo her.

Meanwhile the storm has subsided and the wind has changed direction. The sails are quickly hoisted and Daland sails away, the Dutchman following him.

Act II

Unlike the girls around her, Daland’s daughter Senta is absorbed in dreamy contemplation of the Flying Dutchman, whose portrait she has with her always. The girls tease her about this. Tired of listening to their silly teasing, Senta sings them the ballad of the Flying Dutchman, finally proclaiming that she is the woman who will deliver the condemned sailor from his curse with her love. At that moment Erik, who has loved Senta for a long time, enters. He brings news of the return of Senta’s father. The girls set off quickly to greet the sailors.

Erik pleads with Senta to ask her father for his consent to their marriage. She, however, tries to make him understand that the fate of the Flying Dutchman affects her more deeply than his pleas. As a warning, Erik tells her of his dream in which Senta meets a stranger, a weird sailor. Senta interprets this as a sign that her secret wish will be fulfilled.

Daland and the Dutchman enter. The father introduces his daughter to the stranger whose wife she is to become. He shows her the Dutchman’s treasures to convince her that she is making a good match. He then leaves the two of them alone.

Senta and the Dutchman are immediately attracted to each other and realise that they have each found the answer to their deepest longings in the other. Although the Dutchman warns Senta not to underestimate the sacrifice she is making for him, she is determined to become his wife and swears to be faithful to him until death.

Daland returns and invites them both to join in the celebrations with the sailors, at which he plans to announce Senta’s betrothal to the Dutchman.

Act III

The Norwegians taunt the weird crew of the Dutch vessel, who do not want to take part in the celebrations. Finally the Dutch sailors retaliate, and everybody flees to escape the violence of their reaction.

Erik pleads with Senta but she does not respond to his reproaches. He reminds her of how she once said she loved him, which made him believe she would always be faithful. The Dutchman overhears this conversation and can no longer believe Senta truly means to keep her promise to him. Without giving her the chance to explain, the Dutchman turns to leave. In an act of despair, Senta confirms her pledge of fidelity.

[Synopsis Source: Bayerische Staatsoper]

Click here for the complete libretto.

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