The Flying Dutchman

Opera Explained
Narrated by: David Timson
Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (13 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Flying Dutchman is the perfect opera with which to approach the operatic mountain that is Richard Wagner. It is short, has a great story (the legend of the Dutch captain doomed to sail forever unless redeemed through love), and the striking score has many pre-echoes of Wagner's later great music dramas. It contains wonderful tunes in its arias, ensembles, and big choruses, and the orchestral writing - from the gale that blows out of the Overture to the final theme of "Redemption through Love" - will "blow you away".

These "wonderful tunes" are enriched by a lively explanation of their context. From the opera's dramatic opening, which reflects Wagner's own nautical experiences as he fled from creditors and the law, we see how it contains many of the hall-marks, many of the foot-prints, of his later, greater works. And we find out why The Flying Dutchman was such a blazing triumph for this most controversial and Romantic of composers.

©2002 Naxos AudioBooks (P)2002 Naxos AudioBooks
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An introduction to Wagner

The first twenty or so minutes are spent on a whirlwind review of Wagner's operas and personality, which hardly seems necessary in a short selection such as this. Only after that do we begin with this opera itself, which Smillie says is the perfect introduction to Wagner's work because it contains "all of the elements of his mature genius, but on a human scale."

The plot is quite simple by Wagnerian standards. A sea captain, cursed to sail the seas for all eternity, is given the possibility of reprieve. Every seven years the waves will send him back to shore. While there, if he can find a woman to be a true and faithful wife to him, he will be released from his curse. (One of Wagner's recurring themes finds its origin in this work: redemption through love).

The author discusses each leitmotif, as well as the orchestration, theme, and resolution of the plot. Overall, a good introduction.

David Timson is always a wonderful narrator. (I could listen to him read out a tax return and be enraptured). Five stars for his performance.

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