One of the greatest works of one of the greatest composers of all time – ‘The Flying Dutchman’ by Richard Wagner. It is also Wagner’s first masterpiece. Inspired by a legend about Hendrik Van der Decken, a famous Dutch sailor and his famous (or infamous) ship, The Flying Dutchman.
Wagner’s story is a very touching one. It is about the Dutchman, a captain cursed to sail the seas of the world forever. He can only visit land every seven years. Only love of a faithful woman can break this course. Act I shows Daland, a sailor, who forced by stormy weather has to seek a port of refuge near Sandwike in southern Norway. It is there, where he meets a stranger, the captain of a ghostly vessel, that also seeks in the same port. The stranger tells Daland about his course – he once invoked Satan, he now will remain on the sea forever. Only a woman, who will be faithful to him, can save him. Seeing the ghost captain’s wealthness, Daland offers him marriage with his daughter, Senta. Act II shows Daland’s house and girls, that are spinning. Senta is looking at the picture of the legendary Dutchman and dreams about saving his soul. She sings the story of the Dutchman to the girls. Her song is heard by Erik, a huntsman who is in love with Senta. He tells her about his dream, where Daland returned with a mysterious stranger, who carried her off to sea. Than, Daland truly arrives in a companion of a ghost captain and tells Senta about marriage plans. Senta swears to be faithful to the stranger for the rest of her life. Act III shows the local girls, who brought food for Daland’s man. They also intend to invite the Dutchman’s people to join, but when they see them, they escape. Meanwhile, Erik, who learned about Senta’s plans to marry the Dutchman, reminds her about her vows, that she will be with him, and about her love to him. The Dutchman hears everything and he misinterpretes the meaning of the conversation. Senta won’t save him. He tells her, that he is ‘The Flying Dutchman’ and decides to sail away. When his ship leaves the port, Senta throws herself to the sea, showing her devotion and claiming that she will be faithful to him unto death. This turns to be the Dutchman’s salvation. In the final scene, the ghost ship disappear and the Dutchman and Senta are seen ascending to heaven.
Kasper Holten, the director of ‘The Flying Dutchman’ played in Finnish National Opera, had another, yet very interesting idea, how to show the story, brought to the XXI century. In Holten’s version, Wagner’s captain of the ghost ship changes into the world-famous painter, Hollander, who is travelling around the world. He has been kind of absent for seven years, painting, drinking, seducing beautiful women. After this time, he decides to organize an opening of his paintings. There he meets Daland. I won’t write the details of the story, I just don’t want to reveal too much, until you see it. Because if you are an opera lover, Wagner lover and you are in Helsinki, you are able to visit this city, or you can just watch the stream in the internet (http://oopperabaletti.fi/en/repertoire/the-flying-dutchman/) it is really something for you.