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Der fliegende Holländer

Richard Wagner

Synopsis

Act I


Daland’s Norwegian sailing ship seeks shelter from a violent storm in the bay of Sandwike (Introduction «Hojohe! Hallojo!»). Her captain casts anchor by a rocky and dark shore. When the winds have died down, he sends his crew to bed and, before turning in himself, orders the helmsman to mount watch. To stop himself falling asleep, the helmsman strikes up a sea song («Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer»); but he quickly succumbs to tiredness and falls asleep. As the storm rises again, a black vessel approaches, with blood-red sails: she is the Flying Dutchman’s ship. The captain of this mysterious vessel ponders on the evil spell that has been cast upon him: condemned to wander the seas until doomsday, without ever finding repose in death, unless, that is, he should meet a faithful woman who by her love would put an end to this witchcraft. But the Dutchman can go ashore to look for her only once every seven years: and that period expires precisely on this day (Recitative and Aria «Die Frist ist um»). Daland, who has woken up, catches sight of the foreign vessel and reprimands the helmsman for failing to keep watch. Then he notices the Dutchman, who in the meantime has come ashore, and questions him. Amazed by this character’s strange replies, Daland is nevertheless enticed by the treasures which the foreigner shows him. The Dutchman asks Daland for a night’s hospitality and for the hand of his daughter Senta. Dazzled by such riches, Daland consents to both requests. Meanwhile the storm has abated. To the sound of joyful singing by the sailors, the two ships make ready to set sail again (Scena, Duet and Chorus «Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer»).

 

Act II


In Daland’s house, the nurse Mary and a number of girls walk round the fireplace (Chorus «Summ’ und brumm’»). Senta gazes, lost in thought, at a picture on the wall portraying a pale man dressed in black. Since she seems not to have noticed anything, the girls make fun of her, seeing in the man a rival to Erik, Senta’s fiancé. Senta asks Mary to sing the ballad of the Flying Dutchman and when the nurse refuses, it is Senta herself who sings the tale of the seaman compelled to sail the seas forever. Identifying herself with the story, Senta declares herself ready to save him by her love (Ballad «Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an»). The other girls are afraid. Erik now enters and on hearing Senta’s last words grows suspicious. Left alone with his fiancée, Erik informs her that her father, enthralled by the sight of so much money, intends to give her in marriage to a foreigner. Erik therefore asks Senta to confirm that she loves him. But the girl is in a trance and declares that she is attracted by the mysterious man in the ballad. Erik leaves her in despair and fear (Duet «Mein Herz voll Treue bis zum Sterben»). On the doorstep appear Daland and the Dutchman. Senta is fascinated by the foreigner, towards whom she feels driven by a mysterious force. Equally attracted, the Dutchman feels that she is the very girl who could free him from his spell. Daland leaves his guest in his daughter’s care and arranges for them to be left alone (Aria «Mögst du, mein Kind»). In a passionate conversation, Senta and the Dutchman promise each other eternal love (Duet «Wie aus der Ferne längst vergang’ner Zeiten»). Senta calls her father and tells him she is ready to offer her love to the foreigner. Daland gives orders to celebrate their engagement.

 

Act III


It is night. The Norwegian sailors and the village girls sing and dance, while the Dutch ship is enveloped in a sinister darkness (Sailors’ Chorus «Steuermann, lass’ die Wacht!»). The sailors on the foreign ship are invited to join in the celebrations, but they do not appear and do not answer. Suddenly the wind rises and the sea turns rough. The ghost ship’s crew make ready to sail and tell their captain not to deceive himself: the evil spell will never be broken and the Dutchman must go back to sea for another seven years (Chorus «Johohoe! Johohohoe!»). The Norwegian sailors, terrified by that chorus of ghosts, retreat while crossing themselves. An eerie silence falls upon the sea.At that moment Senta comes out of her house, followed by Erik who is in a state of wild agitation (Finale «Was musst’ ich hören! Gott!»). Erik reminds the girl of her promises of love (Cavatina «Willst jenes Tag’s du nicht dich mehr entsinnen»). The Dutchman, who has been watching unseen, convinces himself of Senta’s unfaithfulness and walks away towards his ship. Without heeding the girl’s protests, the Dutchman goes aboard and quickly sails away. Senta, restrained by Daland and Erik, breaks loose from their grip and flings herself into the sea, proclaiming her faithfulness until death. In that same instant the Dutchman’s ship sinks with all her crew. On the horizon appear the figures of Senta and the Dutchman, transfigured and united for eternity.

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