New Scottish Opera production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman

Opera relocated to Wagner's origianllocation of Scotland’s North East

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New Scottish Opera production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman

If he hadn’t had such a keen eye for nifty marketing, Richard Wagner’s opera The Flying Dutchman could have put Scotland as firmly on the geographic opera map as Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Both operas date from 1839, a time when Gothic horror was never far away, Donizetti being inspired by Sir Walter Scott and Wagner by his own horrific sea journey from the Baltic port of Pillau to London. Caught in a wild storm, it brought to Wagner’s mind the legend of The Flying Dutchman, the unlucky sailor condemned to sail until the end of time unless he finds a truly loving wife on one of his trips ashore.

Scotland made a perfect setting for an opera based on the tale, until Wagner realised that some autobiographical involvement wouldn’t go amiss at the box office, so changed his mind to Norway instead. In researching the piece, Harry Fehr, Scottish Opera’s director of its new production of The Flying Dutchman, came across a copy of Wagner’s original intentions and hit on placing the opera in the community and coastline of Scotland’s North East.

On one of his rare times setting foot on land, the Dutchman finds Senta and, at last, his redemption. But a straightforward ending is too easy. The Dutchman’s curse is only lifted when Senta, wrongly accused of being unfaithful, drowns herself, and the desolate Dutchman heads back out to the North Sea.

‘Wagner was in his 30s when he wrote the piece and it shows,’ says Scottish Opera’s Director of Music and conductor, Francesco Corti. ‘The music is ridden with the power and energy of a young man and Act 3 is still one of the most incredible operatic moments ever written.’

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thu 4, Sat 6, Tue 9 Apr; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 13, Tue 16, Fri 19 Apr

Scottish Opera: The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman wasn't the first opera Wagner wrote (that would be that not-very-often-performed The Fairies, if you can believe it) but it marked the moment that he broke away from the operatic conventions of his time and gained that heady touch of artistic megalomania that makes his work so riveting. Oddly enough…

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