Opera Explained – The Flying Dutchman
- Thomson Smillie
The Flying Dutchman is the perfect opera with which to approach the operatic mountain that is Richard Wagner. It is short, has a great story (the legend of the Dutch captain doomed to sail forever unless redeemed through love), and the striking score has many pre-echoes of Wagner’s later great music dramas. It contains wonderful tunes in its arias, ensembles, and big choruses, and the orchestral writing – from the gale that blows out of the Overture to the final theme of ‘Redemption through Love’ – will… well… ‘blow you away’. These ‘wonderful tunes’ are enriched by a lively explanation of their context. From the opera’s dramatic opening, which reflects Wagner’s own nautical experiences as he fled from creditors and the law, we see how it contains many of the hall-marks, many of the foot-prints, of his later, greater works. And we find out why The Flying Dutchman was such a blazing triumph for this most controversial and Romantic of composers.