What you need to know about Wagner's The Flying Dutchman

CHICAGO (8/8/23) — Wagnerian opera makes a grand return to Chicago when The Flying Dutchman docks at Lyric Opera of Chicago from September 23 to October 7, 2023. Considered to be composer Richard Wagner’s first masterpiece, The Flying Dutchman is legendary for its eerie storyline, complex themes of sacrifice and redemption, and soaring melodies. More than 160 musical and dramatic artists — including some of the world’s most sought-after soloists — bring this riveting odyssey to life on Chicago’s biggest stage.

Opera’s most thrilling ghost story sets sail. Not seen at Lyric in more than 20 years, The Flying Dutchman is perhaps Wagner’s most haunting opera. This tempestuous work tells the story of a sailor known as the Dutchman, who is doomed to roam the seas forever. The Dutchman’s only hope to break the curse is (*drumroll please*) true love. Senta, a young Norwegian woman, falls quickly and deeply in love with the Dutchman and, well, the story only sinks from there. Through recurring musical themes (known as leitmotifs) and a rich orchestration, Wagner leaves the audience holding their breath to see what comes next for the love-struck couple.

Enrique Mazzola kicks off a season of historic "firsts." In his third season as Lyric’s Music Director, Enrique Mazzola leads the esteemed Lyric Opera Orchestra through a series of momentous firsts. This season opener, brought to life with a 72-piece orchestra, will mark Mazzola’s first time conducting Wagner at Lyric. In January, Terence Blanchard and Michael Cristofer’s Champion will mark his first contemporary work at Lyric, and he finishes Lyric’s opera season with his first-ever production of Aida, which also marks the 100th opera of his storied career. In a final "first" of the 2023/24 Season, Mazzola will conduct Mozart’s Requiem, his first foray into Mozart at Lyric. This diverse season allows Mazzola to showcase his broad repertoire and the Orchestra to display its mastery of a variety of musical styles.

An opera that lets the Chorus shine. Wagner’s score of The Flying Dutchman highlights the exceptional Lyric Opera Chorus, with contrasting men’s and women’s (and even ghosts’) choruses throughout the opera. Led by Michael Black, Lyric’s Chorus Director and Head of Music, the powerful 85-member Chorus has a staggering impact on this haunting story.

A star-studded cast comes aboard. Bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny and soprano Tamara Wilson give entrancing portrayals of the Dutchman and Senta. Hailed as "The Breakout Star of the Met Opera’s Ring" by The New York Times, Konieczny returns to Lyric following his acclaimed portrayal of the title role in Wozzeck in the 2015/16 Season. Wilson, a stand-out Verdian in recent seasons at Lyric — who was also deemed "quite the Wagnerian" by The New York Times — returns following her most recent headlining role as Elvira in Ernani in the 2022/23 Season. With piercing arias, longing duets, and energizing dialogues, this captivating pair and their fiery vocal power make The Flying Dutchman a must-see.

Experienced and emerging artists round out the cast. Renowned bass Mika Kares returns to Lyric as Senta’s father Daland. The cast also features tenor Robert Watson as Erik and mezzo-soprano Melody Wilson as Mary, both in their Lyric debuts. Ryan Capozzo, a third-year member of Lyric’s Ryan Opera Center Ensemble, returns to the mainstage as the Steersman.

Sets, costumes, and lighting combine for a theatrically spellbinding production. Director Christopher Alden’s production creates the illusion of a haunted galleon battling raging waters; it is bold and modern while retaining the authenticity of the story itself. (Wagnerian spectacle must run in the family — Alden’s twin brother and fellow opera director, David Alden, directed a new production of The Flying Dutchman at Sante Fe Opera this past summer). Allen Moyer’s creative sets and costumes combine to create a spooky atmosphere, and Anne Militello’s shadowy lighting design gives the production its eerie finishing touches, in her Lyric debut.

Wagner returns to Lyric with drama on the high seas. In an intense return to Lyric, Wagner’s first famous opera does what all of Wagner’s operas do: It draws you in with a captivating story, layered musical composition, and soaring vocal lines written for richly drawn characters. (And at just 2 hours and 20 minutes, it does it all in half the usual time for a Wagner opera.)

Important to know

  • Five chances to see The Flying Dutchman: September 23, 27, October 1 matinee, 4 matinee, and 7, 2023.
  • A running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes; performed without intermission.
  • Sung in German, with easy-to-follow English translations projected above the stage.
  • Information and tickets: visit lyricopera.org/dutchman or call 312.827.5600.

Lyric’s production of The Flying Dutchman is generously made possible by an Anonymous DonorJosef & Margot Lakonishok, and Bulley & Andrews.

Maestro Enrique Mazzola is generously sponsored by Alice & John Butler, H. Gael Neeson, Sylvia Neil & Daniel Fischel, and the Robert and Penelope Steiner Family Foundation as members of the Enrique Circle.

Lyric Opera's Season is presented by

Lyric Opera of Chicago thanks its Official Airline, American Airlines, and acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency

About Lyric

About Lyric

Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera. The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.

Under the leadership of General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, Music Director Enrique Mazzola, and Special Project Advisor Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from, the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration, and evolving learning opportunities, ever-more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences. We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center; and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming, and artists—magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

Join us @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.