Daland the seafarer’s ship has been blown into a bay by a storm shortly before reaching home. The helmsman left on watch soon falls asleep. Suddenly a large ship approaches and noisily lays anchor. Its captain is the Flying Dutchman, cursed to sail the high seas forever. Once every seven years, he is permitted to go ashore to find a woman whose true love will redeem him. The Dutchman encounters Daland and learns that he has a daughter, Senta. He asks Daland for his hospitality, and for Senta’s hand.
As the women in Daland’s house wait for the seafarers’ return, Senta sings a ballad about the fate of the Flying Dutchman, condemned by the devil to sail off an unnavigable cape until he rounded it, even if it took him till the end of time. Senta hopes to be the woman who will release him from this curse. The huntsman Erik is afraid of losing Senta’s love, and tries to stop her fantastic obsession with the Flying Dutchman. Daland arrives with the Dutchman. As in her dream, Senta and the Dutchman realize that they are made for one another. The Dutchman demands – and Senta promises – everlasting love.
Daland’s sailors celebrate their safe homecoming whilst the women make preparations for the couple’s betrothal. The sailors invite the crew on the Flying Dutchmans’s ship to join in the festivities, but the crew does not even answer them. Suddenly the sea becomes violent, and the ghostly crew sing a terrifying chant. Erik tries to prevent Senta’s union with the Flying Dutchman, reminding her of her earlier promise of fidelity. On hearing this, the Dutchman is convinced that Senta has betrayed him. He releases her from her promise to save her from death and flees to his ship. Senta plunges into the sea, “faithful unto death!” The ghostly ship sinks beneath the waves.
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