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Theatre / The Flying Dutchman

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Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), is a German language opera, with libretto and music by Richard Wagner. Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write the opera following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839. In his 1843 Autobiographic Sketch, Wagner acknowledged he had taken the story from Heinrich Heine's retelling of the Flying Dutchman legend in his 1833 satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski). The central theme is redemption through love, and not to mention it popularised the whole Flying Dutchman legend in itself alongside Heine's own work.

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Wagner conducted the premiere at the Semper Oper in Dresden in 1843. This work shows early attempts at operatic styles that would characterise his later music dramas. In Der fliegende Holländer Wagner uses a number of leitmotifs (literally, "leading motifs") associated with the characters and themes. The leitmotifs are all introduced in the overture, which begins with a well-known ocean or storm motif before moving into the Dutchman and Senta motifs.

The story in itself is about the legendary Dutchman, meeting up with a Norwegian sailor named Daland. Still searching for a way to finish his curse and right about to be given the chance to temporarily set foot on a shore like every seven years to look for a prospect bride who can help him, he asks Daland if he has a daughter of marriage-able and if he would engage her to him; not knowing who he is, Daland says that he does and approves of the prospect wedding. Coincidentally, the guy's daughter is Senta, a beautiful but eccentric young woman who is already fascinated with the legend of the Dutchman; in her first apparition, before even meeting the Dutchman himself, she tells her nanny Mary and her friends that she wants to find and marry him, much to the women's fright and her ex boyfriend Eric's dismay. So the Dutchman manages to cut a deal with Daland about getting Senta engaged to him, unaware of what will take place soon. . .

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The Flying Dutchman has the following tropes:

  • Arranged Marriage -> Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Played with. The Dutchman and Daland reach an agreement about the first marrying the second's daughter in the first act, which can be seen as Daland pretty much selling her off without asking for her opinion upon seeing the Dutchman's riches. But once Senta and the Dutchman properly set their eyes on each other, it's Love at First Sight - specially from Senta's side.
  • Badass Baritone: The Dutchman is always played by basses or baritones. This contrasts with Erik being played by tenors.
  • Badass Beard: The Dutchman.
    [ On the rear wall, the picture of a pale man with a dark beard and in black clothes.]
  • Betty and Veronica: Eric the Huntsman is the Betty and the Flying Dutchman is the Veronica to Senta's Archie. Subverted in that the Dutchman wants to settle down with Senta, which would move him into a more Betty-like position.
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  • Blasphemous Boast: The reason the Dutchman is cursed.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Yeah, the Dutchman is finally redeemed like he has always wanted to, and he and Senta manage to stay together... but Senta achieves it via yanno, dying.
  • Death Seeker: The Dutchman has driven his ship onto rocks, sailed into hurricanes, tempted pirates with his treasure, only seeking an end to his cursed existence, and all in vain.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The Dutchman crosses this when he overhears Eric and Senta's talk, believing that Senta doesn't love him enough to break his curse and therefore he is doomed to wander through the seas again.
  • Driven to Suicide: Senta throws herself off a cliff, swearing her eternal love to the Dutchman and intending to reunite herself with him. It works.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The Dutchman is a rare male example; his unnatural paleness is commented on more than once.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Alluded to by Daland:
    Dutchman: "Far have I come: in storm and tempest // would you deny me anchorage?"
    Daland: "God forbid! Sailors know the need for hospitality."
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Defied by Senta, who refuses to let anything get in between herself and the man she loves.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: They're not pirates, but there's plenty of "johoho" among the sailors in the chorus.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Several of Senta's trains of thought sound very like stuff taken from straight-up romantic novels.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Senta is introduced as the other girls of the village and Team Mom Mary are working in their spinning wheels... and she's the only one who is slacking off.
  • Together in Death: Senta's undying love releases the Dutchman from the curse. Then his and Senta's souls ascend to Heaven together.
  • Trope Codifier: Of both the Flying Dutchman and Leitmotif
  • Undeath Always Ends: Not only do the Dutchman and Senta ascend to a higher plane of existence, but the ghost sailors are also redeemed and disappear.
  • The Unseen: The Dutchman's crew are never seen, only heard.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Dutchman's rant when he's about to leave Senta, believing that she has betrayed him. It's followed by him taking off... and by Senta proving him wrong.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Part of the Dutchman's curse, rendering him unable to die, sailing the oceans for all eternity, and only able to put to port once every seven years to try and seek redemption.
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