Wagner: The Flying Dutchman - Overture
The Paris years (1832-42) were far from easy
for Wagner. His plan to batter down the doors of the Paris Opéra with his Rienzi
proved misconceived. The Opéra directors let it be known that there was a five- or
six-year waiting period for composers wanting their works performed within its hallowed
walls, but that a one-act curtain-raiser might stand a chance of being accepted.
Accordingly Wagner produced a scenario entitled Le Hollandais volant and based,
in part, on Heinrich Heine's ironical treatment of the tale of the Flying Dutchman, a man
condemned to sail the sea for all eternity until redeemed by a woman's undying love. The
overture was the last number to be written and was completed on 19th November 1841. Like
the opera it originally ended with the Dutchman's motif. Not until 1860, when Wagner was
preparing the overture for a series of concerts in Paris, did he alter the ending and add
the Tristanesque harmonies of Senta's transfiguring love theme.
© Stewart Spencer & Katie Lang