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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Overture to "The Flying Dutchman" (Wagner)


Overture to "The Flying Dutchman"

Richard Wagner
(1813-83)



The romantic opera of "The Flying Dutchman," conceived by Wagner during a storm which overlook him on a voyage from Riga to Paris, was written in 1841, and was first produced at Dresden in 1843. The overture characterizes the persons and situations in the opera and introduces motives which Wagner ever after used to freely and so skillfully. It opens with the "Curse weighing upon the Dutchman" motive, given out in unison by bassoons and horns, accompanied in the violins tremolo, picturing waves in motion, and passages in violas and cellos depicting increasing waves and the approaching storm, through which are heard suggestions of the Curse and motive and signals of distress. As the storm subsides the second motive is announced, "The Message of the Angel of Mercy," personifying Senta, which is heard in the opera at the close of each stanza of Senta’s ballad. Impressive passages are stated in the horns and trombones, and the Curse motive is again announced, followed by the third motive, "The Personification of the Dutchman." The storm rages anew, fortissimo, and in its lulls is heard the jovial Sailors’ Song on a passing vessel. The storm continues, but the Senta motive returns persistently, alternating with the Curse motive. Finally ensues the wreck scene -- then silence.





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