The Flying Dutchman 101 – Characters and Plot


Illustration of the Flying Dutchman including seagulls, an anchor, and a rocky outcropping

Imagine you are sitting at your local bar and a man enters, dressed like a pirate from the eighteenth century. How would you react? In Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, this mysterious stranger is met with suspicion by most. Luckily, outcasts have a way of coming together.

Wagner’s supernatural drama is all about legends, community, and outcasts looking for their place. Before you see it live at the opera house this winter, learn the full story of a love strong enough to break a lonely curse.

The Flying Dutchman makes landfall with Opera Colorado from February 27 to March 3. Tickets are on sale now, starting at just $39>>


The Origins of The Flying Dutchman

Composer and Librettist – Richard Wagner (May 1813 – February 1883)

Source Material – Folklore about the Flying Dutchman

The Characters of The Flying Dutchman

Senta (soprano) – Daland’s daughter. Played by Marcy Stonikas, making her Opera Colorado debut.

Mary (mezzo-soprano) – Senta’s aunt figure. Played by Dana Beth Miller, returning to Opera Colorado after performing in Falstaff (Dame Quickly).

Erik (tenor) – Senta’s suitor. Played by Chad Shelton, returning to Opera Colorado after performing in Don Giovanni (Don Ottavio) in 2003.

Steersman (tenor) – a member of Daland’s crew. Played by Jonathan Johnson, returning to Opera Colorado after performing in Pagliacci (Beppe) and Die tote Stadt (Gaston/Victorin).

The Dutchman (baritone) – a ghostly sea captain. Played by Olafur Sigurdarson, returning to Opera Colorado after performing the title role in Falstaff .

Daland (bass) – a struggling ship captain and Senta’s father. Played by Harold Wilson, returning to Opera Colorado after performing in The Barber of Seville (Basilio), La fanciulla del West (Ashby), and Aida (Ramfis).

The Plot of The Flying Dutchman


A North American coastal town and the surrounding shoreline

The Flying Dutchman — Act One

A drawing of a man standing in front of a red sail with a navy sky
Set rendering for Act I of The Flying Dutchman, designed by Alan E. Muraoka

Daland and his crew dock their ship to wait out a raging storm at sea. The Steersman keeps watch while others go to sleep but quickly falls asleep himself, missing the arrival of the Dutchman’s ghostly ship. The Dutchman enters and explains his curse: he has made a pact with the devil and is condemned to sail without rest until he finds redemption through the love of a faithful woman. Daland and his crew wake and are intrigued by the Dutchman and his treasures.

The Dutchman learns that Daland has a daughter, and offers his riches in exchange for hospitality and his daughter’s hand in marriage. Daland, delighted with the prospect of new wealth, agrees, and the Dutchman contemplates a love strong enough to break his curse as he boards Daland’s ship.

The Flying Dutchman — Act Two

A drawing of a bar with people gathered around and the back of a sign reading "Hollander" above.
Set rendering for Act II of The Flying Dutchman, designed by Alan E. Muraoka

A group of women gather at the local watering hole, the Hollander, and tease Senta while she daydreams about the legend of the Flying Dutchman. She recounts the story to the group and proclaims herself to be the one who will love the Dutchman and break his curse. Just then, Erik, an unsuccessful yet unrelenting suitor of Senta, enters and explains that Daland and his crew are arriving.

The women exit, leaving Erik and Senta alone. He expresses his love and intention to marry her, but Senta is more interested in greeting her father. Erik is frustrated at Senta’s reluctance and her interest in the legendary Dutchman. She brings Erik to the portrait of the Dutchman and asks him to contemplate his sad tale. Erik warns Senta about a dream he had where Daland introduced Senta to the Dutchman himself and they sailed off together. Senta is overjoyed at this thought and Erik, not receiving the reaction he hoped for, leaves gloomily.

Next, Daland and the Dutchman enter and the Dutchman and Senta are immediately fixated on each other. Daland asks Senta if she would be willing to give the wayfaring stranger hospitality and even take him as her husband; she quickly agrees without knowing his true identity. Daland leaves the two alone. Senta and the Dutchman are happy to have met and pledge to love and be true to one another. Daland reenters and is delighted to hear of his daughter’s engagement and announces that they must celebrate.

The Flying Dutchman — Act Three

A drawing of people standing in a bar with the sign "Hollander" above and a red sail in the background
Set rendering for Act III of The Flying Dutchman, designed by Alan E. Muraoka

The women try to convince the Dutchman’s crew to join in the festivities, but their efforts are in vain. Instead, the ghostly specters frighten Daland’s crew.

Senta enters, quickly followed by Erik who questions the rumors of Senta’s engagement to the Dutchman and laments his broken heart. When Senta tells Erik she must never see him again, he recounts a memory where Senta had once promised her love to him. The Dutchman overhears Erik’s story and believes Senta no longer loves him. Senta calls out to him as he flees, but the heartbroken Dutchman continues to retreat to the sea. He claims it is best Senta will not face condemnation like him since she has not pledged her love before God. Senta continues to convince the Dutchman of her loyalty, much to Erik’s chagrin.

The Dutchman reveals his identity as the man behind the legend, thinking his cursed nature will further scare Senta. She runs after him to pledge her loyalty as the others try to stop her. She chooses to leave her life behind to join the Dutchman, a sacrifice that ultimately redeems him.

Are you ready to see the opera live?

This opera will bring you into a small town where reality and the supernatural mix. What will it look like when these worlds collide?

Experience Opera Colorado’s new production of The Flying Dutchman live at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House from February 24-March 3. Tickets start at just $39>>



What are you most excited to see in The Flying Dutchman? Let us know in the comments below!

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