The Flying Dutchman, or The Phantom Ship
Mostly referred to simply as The Flying Dutchman.
The original text
The play is based on the mythic tale about a legendary ghost ship (known in Dutch as "De Vliegende Hollander") that sails the oceans into eternity, glowing with ghostly light and portending disaster to all that see it. According to the myth, Willem van der Decken, a captain of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and a wealthy trader in command of the fastest ship of the VOC, named the "Hollander" ("Dutchman"). However overcome by greed, he becomes a pirate and when confronted by a storm, makes a pact with the Devil proclaiming: "I will sail, storm or not, Easter or not, prohibited or not. I will sail, even into eternity!" and so sailed into damnation, never able to make port and doomed to sail the oceans forever.
The play, set off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope, was written by Fitzball in 1826, and opened at the Adelphi Theatre London, 8 January 1827, with music by George Rodwell ().
Stage adaptations of the original myth
There have been numerous other literary and artistic versions of the tale, but the best known stage version, besides Fitzball's English melodrama, has been Der Fliegende Holländer ("The Flying Dutchman"), the 1843 German opera by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Wagner's version introduced the idea of redemption through love as central theme and Wagner himself conducted the premiere at the Königliches Hoftheater in Dresden in 1843.
Though it is tempting to assume that Wagner used Fitzball's melodrama as a basis for his musical version, the idea for the opera was apparently taken from an episode in Heinrich Heine's satirical novel The Memoirs of Mister von Schnabelewopski (Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski, 1833), in which a character attends a theatrical performance of De Vliegende Hollander in Amsterdam.
In 1842 Pierre-Louis Dietsch (1808-1865) also composed a French opera called Le Vaisseau Fantôme, ou Le Maudit des Mers ("The Phantom Ship, or The Accursed of the Sea"), with a libretto by Paul Foucher and H. Révoil, based on Walter Scott's novel The Pirate as well as Captain Marryat's The Phantom Ship. The opera was first performed on 9 November 1842 at the Paris Opera.
Translations and adaptations of the play by Fitzball
A burlesque version of Fitzball's play was apparently done by the Christy Minstrels in the 1860s, also performed during their South African visit in 1862.
Performance history in South Africa
1858: Performed on 6 April as The Flying Dutchman (and billed as the "Celebrated Nautical Romantic Drama") in the Harrington Street Theatre by Sefton Parry and his company, along with a reading of the ballad The Celebrated History of Alonzo the Brave and the Fair Imogen (Lewis), a performance of The Lottery Ticket (Beazley) and a song sung by J.E.H. English. Parry himself played "Van der Dercken" in the nautical play.
1862: A burlesque called The Flying Dutchman was regularly performed by the Christy Minstrels, as part of their repertoire while touring the Cape Province between September and November, inter alia playing in the Theatre Royal, The Circus and the Commercial Exchange in Cape Town, as well as venues in Simonstown, the Paarl, Stellenbosch, Worcester, Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown.
The Terrible Fitzball: The Melodramatist of the Macabre by Larry Stephen Clifton (Popular Press, 1993 )
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