Richard Wagner (1813–1883) was born in Leipzig, worked for many years in Magdeburg, Königsberg and Riga, from where his life situation forced him to move to Paris and then to Dresden in 1843. He lived and worked in Dresden until 1848, although he remained in constant conflict with the prevailing situation. Then he had to run away again, this time to Zurich, where his revolutionary nature finally found its faithful companions, i.e. inspiration and tireless composing. In 1864, he was invited by the young Ludwig II to join him at his court in Munich, as he was genuinely impressed with the composer's work. In 1876, Wagner, using some generous help of the king, finally made his dream of life come true. He had a special theatre built in Bayreuth for his Festival Games to stage his four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung. He died after a shorter illness in Venice, in 1883.
Wagner was a very strong but also an extremely complex personality. His entire work is pervaded by an intense and from time to time even painful and immense longing for love and deliverance from some kind of curse, i.e. a duality between the passionate sensuality and spirituality. In this sense, he is by all means a typical representative of the Romantic era. Therefore, different versions of these motives are intertwining in his music from The Flying Dutchman, over his later works Tannhäuser and Tristan to his final opera Parsifal. At the beginning of his career, when he was still conducting, the composer had the opportunity to explore the opera repertoire of the time; however he had decided quite early to address mainly the topics from the German cultural environment and discover a style he would find appropriate for his further creation of the future German opera concept. Therefore he soon gained his stylistic independence and set a series of theoretical composing and technical requirements, particularly emphasizing the so called 'total work of art' (Gesamtkunstwerk), an artistic whole that would achieve a harmonic synthesis of everything the operatic work means in terms of performing arts. He published and consistently defended his reformatory thoughts in many dissertations as well as enforced practically and more or less strictly in his operatic works.
The music in The Flying Dutchman is romantically sensitive, whereas the persuasiveness of the story is expressed by forceful and colourful orchestration (already at the beginning, in the overture we sense an immense power of the ocean) and the composer's capacity of partitioning the traditional operatic elements into a recitative, arias, choir and ensembles, with which he also achieved a more coherent dramatic action. The subject for The Flying Dutchman is marked by a deep personal experience of the stormy see crossing the composer made from Riga to London, which he adopted from the legend, he had heard among the sailors, whereas its contents mainly derives from the famous Memoirs of Herr Schnabelewopski by Heinrich Heine and to some extent from The Story of the Ghost Ship by Wilhelm Hauff. Wagner defined the work, in which he intended to show the fate of the unfortunate captain of the phantom ship, sentenced to eternal wandering and restlessness that can be beaten only by boundless love of a faithful woman, as “a mythical creation of the Folk: a primal trait of human nature that speaks out of it with a heart-enthralling force.” He has clearly based the entire story on the idea of redemption through love and sacrifice of a woman, who also became one of the basic driving forces of his later works.
Explaining the concept of his staging, Matjaž Berger, the stage director of this performance, wrote: »It is a performance, which has to follow several orders of Beauty, it is a performance, which in its final sequence fuses aesthetics and ethics within a field, to which we may refer - thus joining Hegel - as to aufhebung, i.e. abolition with preservation, when Senta and the Dutchman find their »existence« in the field that belongs to some other Absolute ...«
Matjaž Berger (1964) studied dramaturgy, theatre and radio direction at the Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) in Ljubljana. In 1998, he joined the Mladinsko Theatre, where he was also a Programme Director from 2003 to 2006. He is one of the main initiators, founders as well as concept devisers of the Anton Podbevšek Teater – APT in Novo Mesto, and its Director since 2006. His performances - always characterised by his unique authorial concept and autonomous aesthetic - surpass the boundaries of the drama theatre as they are built on versatile foundations of the performing arts in their broadest sense. Quite often, Matjaž Berger also dedicates himself to authorial creation of state celebrations and other artistic actions.