A Note from the Stage Director of THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

by: Paula Suozzi

Despite the title of the opera, I first came to this piece by way of Senta’s character. In initial discussions with Leslie (Costume Designer) and Noele (Scenery and Lighting Designer) and my
own reading on the opera, I felt that I needed to understand her world before I could get a sense of how the Dutchman’s world coincides with hers. We know that Senta feels stuck and will not
conform to societal expectations despite intense pressure from the other women, Erik and even her nanny, Mary, to do so. Senta struggles against the harsh, confining reality of the every day
world and her world of dreams. She is pursued by Erik who has convinced himself of his undying love for her but who Senta sees, as she always has, as an outsider like herself with whom she
feels friendship and kindness, but not love. Senta is a strong willed, smart young woman who has no trouble telling her friends and even Mary exactly what is on her mind and how she wants
to be. Only when Erik confronts her, late in the opera, is she rendered somewhat speechless by his overwhelming insistence on the righteousness of his love for her. Into this world crashes the
Dutchman, as he says, once every seven years, he comes on land, takes human form for 24 hours and must find a wife who will be true to him, even unto death. He meets Daland first, Senta’s
merchant seaman father and in exchange for considerable wealth, obtains the opportunity to woo his daughter. Daland, like everyone else in Senta’s world, pushes her to seize this chance as
“such luck will not come again” and consider this man’s offer “he will pay handsomely”. Only when left alone with the Dutchman can Senta be truly herself. The Dutchman does not push her
but simply asks Senta if she can pledge her faith to him and if he can find solace in her loyalty.  With as much ease as she is asked, Senta gives her affirmative answer. When the Dutchman sees
Senta’s strength, he is filled with compassion and actually, against his own best interest and warns her away from him and from this pledge. It is at this moment, when he feels true human empathy;
that the possibility of his salvation is at hand. Senta, no longer a victim says “What is this power I feel burning within me?” it is the power to act as she decides and to choose her own way forward
without being forced by society, Mary, Erik or Daland.

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