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On This Day – January 2

Today we look at an opera that shows early attempts of the styles that would characterise the composers later works. Inspired through a stormy sea crossing, and a retelling by Heinrich Heine in a satirical novel "The Memoirs of Mister von Scnabelewopski" this opera focusses on a ship captain, condemned to sail until Judgement Day. Der fliegende Holländer, or The Flying Dutchman, by Richard Wagner, premiered on this day in 1843.

After running into financial troubles in Riga, Wagner and his wife fled to Paris to attempt to put his opera Rienzi on the stage of the Paris Opera. However, after arriving in Paris (after a difficult trip), he was unable to find work as a conductor, and the Paris Opera did not wnat to produce Rienzi. Following a conversation with Meeyerbeer, Wagner sketched a one-act opera based on the story of The Flying Dutchman for a curtain raiser to one of Meeyerbeer’s ballets. Unfortunately, this project didn’t come through, and Wagner was thrown into jail for failing to pay a creditor. During this time, he probably completed Rienzi, which was performed in Dresden thanks to a recommendation by Meeyerbeer. During his trip back to Germany, he completed the score to The Flying Dutchman.

The Director of Education and Outreach at San Diego Opera, Nick Reveles, presents a fascinating look at this incredible opera, which marked a change in style for Wagner. I hope you enjoy this video, part of a series from San Diego Opera Talk! with Nick Reveles, presented by University of California Television.

Interested in this opera? Why not buy a CD, or even better a DVD. Wagner’s operas were conceived as complete music dramas, so if you listen to just the music, you’re missing much of the action.

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