Flying Dutchman opera has a rich history

University professors from social, linguistics and science converged in the Husky Oil Theatre of the University of Calgary Rozsa Centre, on Feb.1 to discuss The Flying Dutchman , which was to play at the Jubilee Auditorium until Feb. 7.

Richard Wagner’s opera, based on Heinrich Heine’s legend of the same name, tells the redemption of the Dutchman through the unwavering love of Senta, the daughter of a man he meets at sea.

The Dutchman is cursed to be at sea for seven years and can only be freed through the love of a woman.

“It’s a fairy tale for adults,” explained producer Kelly Robinson of Calgary Opera, in a question-and-answer session.

More than 100 people braved wintry weather to attend the symposium, brought together by the University of Calgary’s Office of the Vice President (Research), Faculty of Arts, School of Creative and Performing Arts and the Department of Linguistics, Language and Culture.

“Wagner tends to strand different stories to create his own,” Maria Euchner, the event organizer, told the audience.

The opera, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, is partially autobiographical.

Wagner based the Dutchman on his experience on a sea voyage he was actually on, and developed the character Senta on his wife Mena.

The character of Senta herself, a symbol of devotion, was a main focus of the symposium, as Lourdes Arciniega discussed how she was atypical of women at the time.

“It’s a fairy tale for adults.” – Kelly Robinson

“Wagner wanted to differentiate her from stereotypical female opera characters,” Arciniega said, adding that Wagner had told the actress who played her in the debut performance that Senta had sailor’s blood in her and to not portray her as a fragile woman.

“Wagner empowers Senta, only to entail her urgency.”

Prior to the closing question-and-answer session, acclaimed accompanist Kathleen von Mourik performed ‘Senta’s ballad.’

When asked what viewers can look to expect for recurring images in the opera’s reinterpretation, Robinson had this to say:

“I was a great lover of Grimm’s fairy tales when I was a kid.

“The films of Burton influenced my view of people of the story. Let’s just say maps and star fields play a certain role.”

Donald Bell, a University of Calgary professor and former operatic singer, shares his experience working in Wagner Opera. Bell was among the professors present at the Flying Dutchman symposium on Feb. 1st, which examined the opera's rich history and themes.
Donald Bell, a University of Calgary professor and former operatic singer, shares his experience working in Wagner opera. Bell was among the professors present at the Flying Dutchman symposium on Feb. 1st, which examined the opera’s rich history and themes.
About Marc Rizkalla 7 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Marc Rizkalla worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2013-2014 academic year.