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.
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Thomson Smillie's Opera Explained series warmly enfolds listeners into a musical world that they might have previously considered elitist. In Smillie's esteemed opinion, opera is inviting, not intimidating, and in this episode he succeeds in making The Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner accessible to a wider audience. This guided listening experience performed by the distinguished actor David Timson opens with an excerpt from Wagner's 1843 opera and goes on to discuss the composer's idea of Gesamtkunstwerk (a synthesis of poetic, visual, musical, and dramatic arts), his use of leitmotifs, his controversial life, and the revolution he accomplished in opera. Timson's artful narration deepens a listener's understanding not only of The Flying Dutchman, but of music in general.
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