The Flying Dutchman


Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) / At the Philharmonie

Concert version, Berliner Philharmonie
Romantic opera in three acts; Music and text by Richard Wagner

In German

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For the best part of a century the consensus was that there existed only one, generally accepted version of THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, a kind of "final cut" in whose crafting Wagner had no part. Instead it was conductor and composer Felix Weingartner, whose score, published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 1896, was used for most performances of the work and continues to be used today. It was not until 1982, with the publication of Wagner's collected works, that Isolde Vetter presented a score detailing all the modifications made between the premiere and the Vienna performances of 1860. It was only in Bayreuth, where the original 1841 score is kept, that pre-1982 performances could be heard which stuck closer to this original version. One example was an occasion in 1961, when Anja Silja sang the ballad in the A minor key that had been originally intended, and there were other productions that omitted ends and beginnings of acts which, albeit part of the work at the time of the Dresden premiere, had nonetheless been tacked onto the original score at an early stage of its evolution.

By the summer of 1841, when Wagner successfully pitched his idea to the Paris Opera while simultaneously working towards a possible premiere at the Berlin Hofoper, he had already completed three drafts of the DUTCHMAN score. His Berlin and Paris hopes came to nothing, however, at which point the Dresden Hofoper agreed to stage the opera. Wagner made the aforementioned alterations to the score, switched the setting from Scotland to Norway and scandinavianised some of the characters' names. The Deutsche Oper Berlin now presents a concert performance of the original version, whose unfamiliar instrumentation is not dissimilar to French opera and omits the transfiguring conclusions in the overture and at the end of the opera.