In 1838, the 25-year-old Wagner read of the legend of the Flying Dutchman in chapter VII of a novel by the great German romantic poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski (The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski, 1833): a Dutchman, a ship’s captain who dared defy God, is condemned to eternally wander the seas with a ghost crew. Only the unconditional love of a woman can save him from this fate, and every seven years he is allowed to disembark and attempt to inspire such a love.
Der Fliegende Hollander, literally “The Flying Dutchman,” is Wagner’s fourth opera and his first masterpiece characteristic of his own style. Composed after the opera was completed, the overture incorporates several of the main themes and brilliantly summarizes the plot.
© 2022 Claudio Ricignuolo
Translation by Craig Schweickert