August 04, 2023

Get to know: Wagner's The Flying Dutchman

Today, more than 175 years since its premiere, The Flying Dutchman continues to thrill audiences musically, theatrically, and emotionally. If you're new to Wagner, it's the best possible introduction to his incredibly beautiful sound world, and to his extraordinary ability to penetrate into the hearts of his protagonists.

Taken from a famous Dutch legend, the opera's title character is a mysterious sea captain who is cursed to wander the earth. He comes ashore only once every seven years, searching for a woman who will be faithful to him. Arriving at a small seaside village, he encounters Daland, a fellow seaman. Daland has a daughter, Senta, who believes she can be the right woman for the Dutchman. When Daland introduces the Dutchman to Senta as a prospective bridegroom, their fateful meeting propels the story to its powerful, heartstopping conclusion.

The Dutchman, lit in eerie red, stands at the giant wheel of his ship.

The glorious music of this opera — the fourth in Wagner's still-young career — found him reaching for a new style. Yes, the score is full of captivating moments showing its maker's German Romantic lineage, whether in Daland's genial aria, the lovesick arias of Senta's luckless suitor, Erik, and the villagers' boisterous choruses. But at the same time, Wagner gave Senta and the Dutchman riveting, inward-looking music that brought audiences into an entirely new realm of music and drama.

Beyond the formidable vocal requirements, the artists portraying the Dutchman and Senta are challenged by Wagner to bring out every psychological nuance in their portrayals. The Dutchman is a tortured figure, scarred by decades of roaming the world, hoping that a woman's love can finally bring him redemption. Senta is illuminated from within by a burning desire to give her love to the Dutchman; no other man interests her. When Daland introduces them, their instant emotional connection is electrifying, but it's also deeply intimate, as both of these sympathetic characters reveal their innermost feelings.

In "Senta's Ballad," the naive heroine tells the Dutchman's tragic tale and sings of her growing passion for the strange man.

Onstage at Lyric will be two of the most sought-after artists on today's international operatic scene. Polish bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny previously starred with the company as Berg's Wozzeck, bringing to that role a mesmerizing dramatic power. Now a prominent Wagnerian, his Dutchman enthralled Met audiences last season. American soprano Tamara Wilson has scored huge successes at Lyric as Verdi's Leonora (Il trovatore) and Elvira (Ernani). Senta, her first Wagner role here, follows up on her triumphant role debut as Isolde at The Santa Fe Opera.

It will be exciting to welcome back to Lyric the marvelous Mika Kares (Daland) — heir to a formidable tradition of great Finnish basses — and to introduce Chicago to American tenor Robert Watson (Erik), who has developed a dazzling career in Europe. Dutchman provides an ideal showcase for Lyric's world-renowned orchestra and chorus, conducted by music director Enrique Mazzola in his eagerly awaited Wagner debut in North America. Christopher Alden's production has been hailed as "a winning spectacle" with a "thrilling directorial vision" (Toronto Star). The production's Chicago premiere is truly cause for celebration!

September 23 - October 7, 2023

The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman

Lyric Opera of Chicago presents Wagner's masterpiece The Flying Dutchman, a story of a young woman's obsession with a cursed wanderer who seeks a faithful companion. This production is led by Enrique Mazzola and features Tomasz Konieczny and Tamara Wilson in leading roles.

Header image: Artwork for Lyric's 2023/24 Season production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman

All other photos: Michael Cooper/Canadian Opera Company