The Flying Dutchman

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May 2025
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Will the Dutchman find the woman whose faithful love will break his eternal damnation?

Approximate running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, no intermission

Language: In German, surtitles in Czech, English

 

One of the chapters of the German Romantic poet and prose writer Heinrich Heine’s novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski describes the  “Flying Dutchman”, a sea captain who strives to outdo Nature by sailing through a ferocious storm and is duly cursed for his blasphemy, with his one and only hope for redemption by death being the true love of a woman. The story immediately captivated Richard Wagner. What more could a Romantic composer wish than to express through music a stormy sea, ruffled human souls, amorous passions and the determination to die for love? The lead heroine, Senta, embodies Wagner’s notion of the ideal woman, prepared to sacrifice herself in order to save a male hero.

 

Der fliegende Holländer links up to the tradition of Carl Maria von Weber’s and Heinrich Marschner’s German Romantic operas. Yet even though still adhering to the conventional structure of self-contained numbers with recitatives and arias, in this work Wagner set out on the path towards the style that would characterise his later creations, through-composed music dramas with leitmotivs, associated with specific characters and themes. An important role in the opera is played by a dream: Senta lives in another world, different to that inhabited by the people around her; she yearns for the mysterious Dutchman, a figment of her imagination and a phantom she deems real. Wagner thus afforded theatre-makers tremendous scope for presenting the often very narrow borders between reality and dream, or sanity and insanity.

 

Der fliegende Holländer received its world premiere on 2 January 1843 in Dresden, with Wagner conducting. Its first performance in the Czech lands was given on 7 September 1856 by the German opera company at the Estates Theatre in Prague, under the baton of František Škroup. The opera’s new production was undertaken by the German conductor Karl-Heinz Steffens, currently serving as the music director of the State Opera, and the Norwegian theatre director and designer Ole Anders Tandberg.

 

Suitable for audience from 12 years.

 

Synopsis

Place: On the coast of Norway

 

Act 1

On his homeward journey, the sea captain Daland is compelled by stormy weather to seek a port of refuge near Sandwike in southern Norway. He leaves the helmsman on watch and he and the sailors retire. (Song of the helmsman: "Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer" – "With tempest and storm on distant seas.") The helmsman falls asleep. A ghostly vessel appearing astern is dashed against Daland's vessel by the sea and the grappling irons hold the two ships together. Invisible hands furl the sails. A man of pale aspect, dressed in black, his face framed by a thick black beard, steps ashore. He laments his fate. (Aria: "Die Frist ist um, und abermals verstrichen sind sieben Jahr" – "The time has come and seven years have again elapsed") Because he once invoked Satan, the ghost captain is cursed to roam the sea forever without rest. An angel brought to him the terms of his redemption: Every seven years the waves will cast him upon the shore; if he can find a wife who will be true to him he will be released from his curse.

 

Daland wakes up and meets the stranger. The stranger hears that Daland has an unmarried daughter named Senta, and he asks for her hand in marriage, offering a chest of treasure as a gift. Tempted by gold, Daland agrees to the marriage. The southwind blows and both vessels set sail for Daland's home.

 

Act 2

A group of local girls are singing and spinning in Daland's house. (Spinning chorus: "Summ und brumm, du gutes Rädchen" – "Whir and whirl, good wheel") Senta, Daland's daughter, dreamily gazes upon a gorgeous picture of the legendary Dutchman that hangs from the wall; she desires to save him. Against the will of her nurse, she sings to her friends the story of the Dutchman (Ballad with the Leitmotiv), how Satan heard him swear and took him at his word. She vows to save him by her fidelity.

 

The huntsman Erik, Senta's former boyfriend, arrives and hears her; the girls depart, and the huntsman, who loves the maiden, warns her, telling her of his dream, in which Daland returned with a mysterious stranger, who carried her off to sea. She listens with delight, and Erik leaves in despair.

 

Daland arrives with the stranger; he and Senta stand gazing at each other in silence. Daland is scarcely noticed by his daughter, even when he presents his guest as her betrothed. In the following duet, which closes the act, Senta swears to be true till death.

 

Act 3

Later in the evening, the local girls bring Daland's men food and drink. They invite the crew of the strange vessel to join in the merry-making, but in vain. The girls retire in wonder; ghostly forms appear at work upon the vessel, and Daland's men retreat in fear.

 

Senta arrives, followed by Erik, who reproves her for deserting him, as she had formerly loved him and vowed constancy. When the stranger, who has been listening, hears these words, he is overwhelmed with despair, as he thinks he is now forever lost. He summons his men, tells Senta of the curse, and to the consternation of Daland and his crew declares that he is "Der fliegende Holländer."

 

As the Dutchman sets sail, Senta throws herself into the sea, claiming that she will be faithful to him unto death. This is his salvation. The spectral ship disappears, and Senta and the Dutchman are seen ascending to heaven.

Program and cast

Conductor: Richard Hein

The Dutchman: Joachim Goltz; Ólafur Sigurdarson

Senta: Dorothea Herbert

Mary: Jana Sýkorová

Daland: Zdeněk Plech

Erik: Michal Lehotský; Aleš Briscein

Daland's steersman: Daniel Matoušek

 

State Opera Chorus
State Opera Orchestra

 

Creative team

Stage director - Ole Anders Tandberg

Sets - Ole Anders Tandberg; Martin Černý

Costumes - Maria Geber

Light design - Ole Anders Tandberg; Åsa Frankenberg

Chorus master - Adolf Melichar

Dramaturgy - Jitka Slavíková

Photo gallery
Zdeněk Sokol
© Zdeněk Sokol
Zdeněk Sokol
© Zdeněk Sokol
Zdeněk Sokol
© Zdeněk Sokol

Prague State Opera

The State Opera today

 

The State Opera (formerly the State Opera Prague, between 1948 and 1992 the Smetana Theatre, and originally the New German Theatre) has been a part of the National Theatre since 2012. The Opera and Ballet ensembles give repertory performances at the State Opera.

 

History

 

The Prague State Opera resides in the building which on January 5, 1888 was opened as a Prague German stage with the performance of Wagner’s opera, The Mastersingers of Nürnberg. In the 19th century, Prague Germans performed in the Estate’s Theater in alternation with a Czech company. Desire for their own theater led to negotiations in 1883 for the construction of a new theater building for the German Theater Association. Over the next three years, a blueprint was drawn up and handed over to the Vienna atelier of Fellner and Hellmer. Also sharing in the design was the architect of the Vienna Municipal Theater, Karl Hasenauer, while Prague architect Alfons Wertmüller took part in the construction. Financing came from private collections. With its spacious auditorium and neo-Rococo decoration, this theater building is among the most beautiful in Europe.

 

Access:

 

By car

On Wilsonova street, from the left lane close to the State Opera building take the slip road to the Slovan above-ground garage. The parking fee is 40 CZK/h.

 

By tram

 

By daytime tram No. 11 to the stop “Muzeum”, through the underpass beneath Legerova street in the direction of the NationalMuseum, at the crossroads turn right along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.

 

By daytime trams Nos. 3, 9, 14 and 24 or night trams Nos. 51, 52, 54, 55, 56 and 58 to the stop “Václavské náměstí”, then by foot uphill on the left side of the Wenceslas Square to the traffic lights across Wilsonova and Vinohradská streets. Then turn left along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.

 

By metro

To the “Muzeum” station, lines A and C (green and red), and then by foot along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.

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