Kicking off our 2022/2023 season, The Flying Dutchman makes its first appearance on the COC stage in over a decade this October, conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus! This seafaring classic tells the legend of a cursed sea captain, his ghostly ship, and a young woman infatuated with the captain’s story.
First performed at the COC in 1996, director Christopher Alden’s production brings a striking visual style to the work, taking inspiration from German expressionism and early cinema. Casting the show’s memorable characters and settings in extreme contrasts of light and dark, complemented by saturated shades of reds, greens, and blues, the production offers a spellbinding experience—described by late NOW Toronto writer Jon Kaplan as “one of the COC’s most magical productions.”
Of course, Dutchman is best remembered for its groundbreaking score by one of opera’s most-famous composers, Richard Wagner. The show was one of Wagner’s first operas to display certain qualities that would later be deemed Wagnerian musical hallmarks. In particular, the consistent use of leitmotifs—short, recurring musical phrases used to represent specific characters or themes—create instantly memorable and impactful moments throughout the work. Wagner introduces each of the opera’s leitmotifs in the Overture, setting the tone for each of the story’s characters and themes.
After Wagner, leitmotifs became an important tool not only for operatic composition, but for the further development of musical composition more broadly. Early sound films quickly adopted leitmotifs as a useful tool for scores, leading to some of film history’s most iconic music borrowing the method, including Psycho, Jaws, Star Wars, and Titanic. On the stage, Wagner’s influence persists even as recently as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit Hamilton: An American Musical, in which nearly every major character has their own trademark leitmotif.
The Flying Dutchman’s Overture is also a memorable song in its own right, recognizable from countless appearances in film, television, and more. Sci-fi television series like Smallville and Andromeda, comedies like Manhattan Murder Mystery and Aloha, and dramas like Race, Shadow of the Vampire, and The Many Saints of Newark all feature Dutchman’s Overture. Like other opera classics—The Barber of Seville and Gianni Schicchi, for example—Dutchman’s music makes regular appearances in cartoons, showing up in Looney Tunes, Tiny Toon Adventures, Goof Troop, Ren & Stimpy, and Animaniacs, among others. Below, enjoy a taste of the iconic Overture from our 2022/2023 Season Preview Concert!
Experience this classic Wagnerian composition live on our stage this fall! COC Music Director Johannes Debus conducts the COC Orchestra and Chorus in The Flying Dutchman, opening October 7, 2022. Tickets on sale Friday, September 2.