Friday, June 5, 2015

The Flying Dutchman

 ”Actor and Singer Carl Gunther in the Role of the Flying Hollander,“ Lithograph 1843, from the collection of The Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, Riga Latvia

Our ancestor, Johann Karl Ludwig Maddaus, arrived in Riga in 1840 at the age of 20 and established a 38 year career of teaching art and drafting and producing various portraits and other works of art.  One of his earliest works was the lithograph of Carl Gunther in the role of The Flying Dutchman in the Wagner opera of the same name.

Wagner himself had moved to Riga (then part of the Russian Empire) in 1837 amidst serious financial and romantic difficulties.  Although reunited with his love Minna, his troubles continued in Riga and they departed for London in 1839 to avoid creditors.   As the story goes, the sea voyage to London served as inspiration for 
Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman).   Whether this is true was cast in doubt when Wagner acknowledged he had taken the story from a Heinrich Henne work.  The work is regarded as the beginning of the mature canon of the composer.

Wagner premiered the opera in Dresden,  in January 1843 and later that same year, Johann Karl Ludwig Maddaus completed the lithograph  to coincide with a Riga performance.   Maddaus and Wagner shared a connection in that they both came to Riga after some time in Magdeburg and indeed, Maddaus's move to Riga followed Wagner and many others.

Our family connection with the opera was continued with the naming of Johann's granddaughter Senta, after the herione of the opera.  

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